Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
Times of Refreshment
Do you have a hard time saying "No" to other people? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by others in need? Have you ever wanted a few moments peace? What happened?
"If you want something done, ask someone who is busy."
With the ever-increasing pace of life, family and friends, business associates and community groups ask more and more of our time. This is especially true if we have talents or treasures these groups desire. It seems the more we have to offer, them more people want from us.
The time soon comes to get away, to refresh the body and soul. As with us, so too did the apostles need a quiet time and place to renew their spirits and their relationship with Jesus.
When they returned from their travels,
30 the apostles met with Jesus and told him everything they did and said. 31 "Come alone to a quiet place," Jesus replied. "You can rest there a while." So many people were coming and going Jesus and his apostles didn't even have a chance to eat. 32 So they left alone by boat for their quiet place. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leave. From the local towns, these people ran ahead and arrived before the boat landed. 34 When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the huge crowd. He felt sorry for the people, for they looked lost, like sheep without a shepherd. So, Jesus began to teach them many things.
These passages marked a transition from the traveling ministry of the Twelve to the multiplication of the loaves (Mark 6:14-29 on the arrest and execution of the Baptist was an aside in the narrative) They helped explain the large crowd Jesus would face along the Sea of Galilee.
30 The apostles were brought together before JESUS and they told every thing they did and they taught. 31 HE said to them, "Come, (just) you yourselves alone to an isolated place and rest a little." For many (people) were coming and leaving, and they did not have an opportunity to eat. 32 They went away by boat to an isolated place by themselves.
6:30 "The apostles" is one of the two times Mark used the title for the Twelve. "Apostle" literally means "to send out." After their travels, the Twelve became those Jesus had sent out.
6:31 "they did not have an opportunity to eat." is literally "they did not have a good time to eat." The commotion and demands of the people did not allow rest for Jesus and his followers.
When the Twelve returned, they reported their success. Jesus responded with an invitation to retreat. Simply, they would sail to a favorite cove Jesus used for private prayer. Yet, this trip did not appear as it seemed to the modern mind.
For moderns, scenic visas and vacant areas for relief represent relaxation. But, the contemporaries of Jesus saw "deserted" places as the home of evil and danger. Moderns seek personal space. Jews in the times of Jesus had no such concept. They banned together in a few Palestinian cities (like Jerusalem) or in small hamlets (50-150 population) for survival. Moderns seek privacy. Ancients sought social connection to the extent that personal identity almost solely depended upon one's place in family (and, hence, society).
Jesus' contemporaries viewed the land as vast playground for evil, dotted by hamlets, oases of safety. Why would Jesus seek the desert and invite his chosen to follow him? Remember the Temptation from Mark 1:12-13. After the baptism of Jesus by John, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan. After forty days, Jesus returned to begin his ministry. Mark implied Jesus conquered the devil and his land, then returned to serve people. Jesus was Lord of nature, even the "desert." He invited his followers to join him in his domain.
The opportunity to eat and rest also meant more than renewing one's needs. The meal was an event that renewed fellowship and social bonds. The gospels imply Jesus had many meals with his inner circle to develop leadership and pass along the message of the Kingdom.
33 Many (people) saw them leave and recognized them. On foot, (the people) ran together there from the cities and arrived ahead of them. 34 Having come out (of the boat), HE saw the large crowd and felt compassion for them because they were like a sheep without a shepherd. So, he began to teach them many (things).
The hunger of the people outweighed any sense of danger. The desert was safe when people traveled in numbers. So, the word went out. Mark painted a large picture of many people deserting their villages to see Jesus and preceding his arrival. Mark was not concerned with the actual numbers or possibly of "outrunning" Jesus. Mark focused upon the theme. Jesus fulfilled the spiritual needs of the people. That need would find its fulfillment in next Sunday's study: the multiplication of the loaves.
Catechism Theme: Places Favorable for Prayer (CCC 2691)
Just like his followers, we, too, are invited to find a quiet place to spend time with the Lord. We can pray before the Blessed Sacrament in a reservation chapel. We can create and use prayer corners in our homes, centered around icons and the Scriptures. We can visit places of prayer like monasteries, and partake in communal celebrations (like the Liturgy of the Hours). Even the travel to and from churches and shrines can invite us to prayer, creating an atmosphere of "pilgrimage." All times and all places invite us to prayer. But, there are quiet times and places to "come and rest" in the Lord.
Remember a special time of quiet you spent with the Lord. Why was it special?
Escape and relax. Don't those words sound inviting? There are times and places those words mean more than vacation. They mean prayer. After all, prayer is not mere work. It is an encounter with the Lord. What better partner can we have to share times of pause, places of refreshment.
What places and times invite you to spent time with the Lord? Reread the Catechism theme paragraph and use these ideas to create a space or plan a trip for prayer.