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 get away 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 continue to be challenged, as I am still recovering from pneumonia a year later, not overextending myself during the school week. By the time Friday comes, I feel pretty wiped out. One of the practices that sustains me is making time daily to pray and meditate.
Choosing five to ten minutes to be still, to rest in the Lord, may not seem like much but it 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 throughout the day that we did not think possible at the outset. This is especially true during moments when we may have felt that we did not have the time.
I invite you to 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, and if so, 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 such that your heart and Jesus’ heart beat as one. You too will 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, such that each encounter becomes an opportunity to serve.
Photo: On the ferry to Coronado Island, CA, June 2014. Enjoying a little downtime.