Here in Mark we see an example of the kind of tension that exists in the life of every committed Christian. On the one hand, there is the need to draw away to a quiet place and to recharge our batteries, to regenerate our spiritual energy. At the same time, there are constant demands on our commitment to serve. We want to respond generously where there is real need. But, how do we know what is a ‘real need’ and what is just another’s whim or our own desire to be in demand.
To be in touch with the difference calls for a life immersed in discernment. There are times when, no matter how weary we feel, we know we should say ‘Yes’. There are other times when, in spite of the criticism it may generate, we know ought to say ‘No’. There are human limits to the quality of service we can give. In the life of Jesus, we see him at times leaving the people, in spite of their demands, and going away to pray. This kind of rest is not laziness or irresponsibility. This is the Sabbath rest our retreat director called us to.
Last weekend the apostles were sent out two-by-two. Today, they are re-gathering two-by-two. They had had exhilarating, but exhausting, experiences. For the first time they had been on their own without Jesus. They had preached, casted out demons, anointed the sick, and called people to respond to God’ message. Now Jesus invited them to “come away to a deserted place all by themselves and rest a while.” Notice there are four parts to the invitation: “Come away – to a deserted place – all by yourself – and rest a while.” Each phrase means something on its own, but none stands alone … we have to accept the whole package.
We are reminded that we must be on guard not to make busy-ness a badge of honor. That blinks an implicit message: I’m worthwhile because I’m so busy. I’m always tired equals “I’m important”. Busy-ness is not a badge of honor! On the contrary, it is the mark of a life way out of balance. It is NOT Benedictine!
It’s good to keep in mind about the idea of busyness that one person’s “work or drudgery” may be another’s “leisure or pleasure-filled activity.” That I enjoy ironing may seem very strange to those who bless the one who invented wash-n-wear fabric. Kneading bread may be a spiritual experience for you but your friend may find it stressful and just something she HAS to do to put bread on the table. Pulling weeds may offer one a chance to commune with God and nature and to another it’s just a hot, sweaty job she was told to do. Yes, it’s true one person’s pleasure is another’s pain. So, be slow to judge “she’s always so busy” – she might be using her hands to free her mind to get touch with the Spirit.
Jesus said: “Come away.” He did not say “Go away.” His is an invitation to a communal experience. It’s “coming away” to be with Jesus. What a beautiful words … Come away and rest … an invitation to step out of all the bustle and activity of life. Rest … a chance to slow down, to change the pace. If we don’t rest, we won’t be able to take care of others. If we don’t slow down, we will be of no use to anyone, especially God.
As Jesus listened to each of the two-by-two teams give their reports, he was moved by their tender stories of healing children, inspiring people, and boldly witnessing to Jesus. But the Lord must have also seen fatigue in their faces and so, in a gracious moment of concern, Jesus said to them: Come away for a while and rest. I know a place close by ~ just across the lake ~ a deserted place, a bit of wilderness. Jesus made no suggestion that their ministry of witness and compassion was over but he offered them a respite from busyness. They got into a boat and headed off for the first Christian retreat.
And you know what greeted them! Mark says, over 5000 figured out where the boat was going and got there ahead of them. You can probably imagine how the disciple felt when they saw that waiting crowd. They had had visions of having a little quiet time with Jesus. And, now, my, oh, my you’ve got to be kidding! Can’t we have any break? Or, maybe that wasn’t their reaction. Maybe they saw the same thing Jesus saw: sheep without a shepherd. It was clear that the needs of the people called for a positive response. Like Jesus, their Shepherd, the disciples’ hearts were moved to pity – to reach out, setting personal wishes aside in deference to the needs of others.
To be sure, there is weariness in ministry. We know this is true, but weariness is no excuse to quit, and weariness is no excuse to back-off and let others pick up the torch. Like a runner or a swimmer, we need to catch our second breath and snuff out the rising murmur: “I’ve done my part; I’ve served my time – it’s someone else’s turn!” Somehow we must discover Jesus’ compassion for the crowd within our own heart.
It’s just not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes life just gets too serious…too busy…and too complicated. We don’t mean for it to happen, but we wake up one morning to discover the fun has slipped away.
Several years ago a health study determined there are 3 main reasons people can’t cope with the demands in their lives: They live in the past. They have a low self-esteem. They can’t laugh at themselves.
In fact, the study indicated that we need approximately 12 laughs a day to stay healthy! Yes, life throws us curve balls just when we least expect it (like being paged to a guest just when we finally got a chance to zone out for a few minutes). To stay sane we need to sit back and enjoy a good laugh. So here’s your laugh-vacation for today.
Not long ago a lady I know sent flowers to her friend who had opened a new restaurant. When she arrived at the grand opening, she looked for the flowers. Imagine her consternation when she found them, and saw that, in her haste in placing the order, she had sent a white wreath that said, “May you rest in peace.” She panicked, of course, and called the florist who said, “Honey, I’m not worried about you because as we speak, there’s a lady being buried across town who got a dozen roses that said, ‘Good luck in your new location!’”