Returning from their missionary activity, Jesus takes the disciples away to a deserted place where they can rest, reflect and pray. No sooner do they arrive at their destination, they are flanked by a great crowd looking for them. Jesus, being the Good Shepherd, is moved with pity and he begins to teach them.
Here we are, at the midpoint of summer, and the thoughts of getting away for peace and quiet and a little relaxation is on most of our minds.
To do so, however, is increasingly difficult. The stresses of work caused by the economy and our hectic lifestyles place heavy demands, causing many of us to either take no vacation or to concede to a staycation either to save money or to get those essential life tasks done that we have little time for when we are working. Even when we do get away, many of us are so tied into our work that we never really get away. The prevalence of smartphones allow -- and all too often demand -- us to be in constant contact with our employers and clients on virtually a 24/7 basis. While this might be more efficient – in some ways for work – it is not good for life.
It is with some frequency that Jesus withdraws from the world – and even his disciples at times – to relax and to pray. Here he takes also the 12 apostles with him. Yes, it is necessary for them to decompress and to process the work of the mission from which they have just returned, but it is also necessary for them to withdraw and reflect.
Jesus sets for us a good example for the need to withdraw and to take time to rejuvenate. Jesus went to the mountain, to the wilderness, to the seashore, to spend time in reflection, prayer and conversation with God.
Part of the reason for our unbounded work lives is that we are un-centered and unbalanced. We have lost our way, and are so caught up in our own importance that we have failed to make ourselves important. We are, as are the crowds that seek Jesus and the 12, like sheep without a shepherd.
In a world which values religious faith less and less, the exaltation of the human person seems to take its place. Yet, we do not value all human life, nor do we value our own individual human life. We may engage in self-aggrandizing or gratifying behavior, but we fail to recognize and honor the value of our life even as we reject the one who is the author of life.
We need a refocus in life. We can more fully relax and enjoy the good things that the Lord bestows upon us when we lose the idolatry of self. When we feel that we are so indispensable that we cannot get away, let go and relax, it is because we have made ourselves an idol.
The Lord sets for us an important example. We all need time to be alone, to re-center our lives, and to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. We need to take time each and every day to do two things: to take time to pray, read Scripture, perhaps even attend a daily Mass. Our spiritual life and relationship with the Lord needs daily refreshment and renewal. And we also need to take time to relax. We have lost a sense of family time, personal time, quiet time. We are so afraid of being alone that we fill our lives with constant noise to distract us from the realization that we are indeed sheep without a shepherd.
It is time to rediscover the Lord, to step away with him, and to rest with him. We need to find the shepherd whose voice is being drowned out by our earbuds.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]