JESUS INVITED US TO A LONELY PLACE, AND REST A WHILE
(A biblical refection on THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – July 19, 2015)
Gospel Reading: Mark 6:30-34
First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 2:13-18
The apostles returned to Jesus, and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As He landed He saw a great throng, and He has compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:30-34 RSV)
Jesus recognized the need to slow down, to back off for a while, to get away from the crowd, …… to retreat. He thus invited His disciples to “a lonely place by themselves, and rest a while” (Mark 6:30).
Once a priest was giving a weekend retreat for Catholic students of several non-Catholic universities. A student asked: “Why do we retreat? Shouldn’t we advance instead?” In reply the priest recall saying: “We keep on advancing but we don’t know where we’re going to!”
During the time of Jesus, there was obviously no communication media like the TV, radio, etc. not to mention many more modern devices, yet the large crowd of people became the “noise and distraction” detrimental to the much-needed peace and quietness. No one had a more important and urgent mission that did Jesus, and yet He knew that important things cannot be accomplished without peace and mind, that urgent matters cannot be handled properly without reflection. Indeed, we must occasionally leave the world of involvement to re-evaluate the reasons for being involved.
We need to de-stimulate our senses, to lessen the constant flow of sound and images into a weary brain. If we can go to a quiet, serene place away from the “maddening crowd”, fine. But we can “get lost” in our private rooms and offices. We can always turn off the radio, the TV, or put down our newspapers and magazines, etc. – at least during some time of the day.
Consider how much time we spend listening to the radio, watching TV, or communicating through various social media in the internet every day. Consider in contrast, how little time is dedicated to God. We sometimes complain how long the Sunday Mass is, even though it is a once a week event. Should we be surprised if even an occasionally inspiring homily has little or no effect on our lives?
Dear Sisters and Brothers, we must search for solitude and opportunity to think, to pray and reflect. Alone with God, we should ask ourselves whether we’re going in the right direction in life, ask what negative traits we have that hinder our growth or hurt our relationship with our family, co-workers, friends and others. We should ask, too, whether we’re using the principles taught by Jesus Christ to solve our problems and guide our interpersonal relations. Is our life, for instance, motivated more by competition rather than consideration for others? More by money rather than charity? We do need some solitude in which to think things over. We need a little time to reflect on the meaning of whatever it is we’re doing and the direction we’re going to. The Greek philosopher Socrates one wrote: “An unreflected life is not worth living.” Finally, let’s pray for courage. For it may not be so difficult to find the truth during reflections as to act courageously once we’ve found it.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You once told Your disciples to go apart to a lonely place to rest. You tell us that, too. There are times when we must isolate ourselves from our business, our busy-ness, noise, all disturbance. There are times when we need a lonely place, where You can heal us and renew us. We ask You to give us the grace to respond to that call from You. Give us the courage and humility to admit that we need to rest now and then, to pause and re-collect ourselves. We thank You for this invitation and for the grace to accept it. Amen.
Jakarta, 17 July 2015
A Christian Pilgrim