After hearing the accounts of the missionary trip, Jesus invited his apostles to step away from the crowds “to a deserted place [to] rest awhile” (Mk 6:31). Jesus is showing the apostles the importance of balance. There are times to serve and times to recharge, to reconnect, and spend some quiet and reflective time with him. Jesus is our model, our guide and teacher, but he is at the same time more than that. Jesus is the source and sustenance of who we are as a living craving, hunger, and desire to be one with God and each another. As the deer longs to refresh itself from the waters of a running stream, we long to be nourished by the living water, Jesus, and this is true for the atheist as well as the mystic alike, for each and every one of us, whether we are aware of this reality or not.
Our thirst for communion can be stifled because it is so easy to be caught up in our day to day schedule, life’s demands, and even sometimes survival. There is so much that needs to be done, and at the same time, there are so many distractions and diversions that vie for our energy and attention. In today’s Gospel, the intent of Jesus is to escape with his apostles for some rest and renewal. They get in a boat to do just that, yet the crowd that they thought they had left behind has arrived on the other side before they did! “When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34). So much for being able to “rest away for awhile”! Or maybe the boat ride across was that moment of rest.
I am doing my best to embrace this time I have been given to rest and renew as I recover from Covid and pneumonia (negative test result for Covid test just came today!), as well as discern how to be more balanced with the time and energy I invest when I come up and out of this on the other side.
Choosing five to ten minutes to be still, to rest in the Lord, may not seem like much but can make a huge difference. Our challenge is to be able to discern and develop a healthy balance that becomes fruitful through aligning our will with Jesus. When we intentionally put God first and make the time each day to spend with him, often there is a serendipitous alignment that we experience in our day, that we did not think possible at the outset. This often happens when we consciously make time for stillness, for meditations and prayer, even and especially, during the moment when we may feel we just don’t have the time.
Today is Saturday. Give yourself a five-minute retreat. Read today’s Gospel slowly and reflectively. Then step into and sit in the boat with Jesus and his disciples. Breathe in deep, let your head fall back to feel the breeze of the Sea of Galilee, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and experience the rhythm of the boat on the water. Does Jesus remain silent and rest with you? Does he begin to teach, what does he share? In your time of quiet, do you have questions for him, what do you ask, and what is his answer? Enter into the experience, and when the boat comes to shore, go forth into the day renewed and blessed by Jesus so to go forward with a heart and mind able to be moved with compassion to serve others.
From such periods of renewal, we can better embrace interruptions in our days with the heart and compassion of Jesus, as encounters and opportunities of service.
Photo: On the ferry to Coronado Island, CA, June 2014. Enjoying a little downtime.