Come Away and Rest

Photo: Dennis Steighner Photography
Photo: Dennis Steighner Photography

When we are overwhelmed by life, often it is because the needs crashing down upon us are far greater than the time, energy, and know-how we have to meet them. It seems like we never get to the point when all our needs are over and done with. One need is met, another crops up. We can easily identify with the needs presented in this Sunday’s gospel: the weary disciples need rest; the persistent crowd needs to be where Jesus is.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shepherds both the apostles who need rest and the crowd who needs teaching. This need was so great that even Jesus’ seeking a “deserted place” for him and the disciples to rest did not keep the people from hastening to him. Jesus discerned the differing needs of the weary disciples and the persistent crowd, and responded to each accordingly.

Jesus shepherds us in both rest and teaching. The rest Jesus provides re-creates us to have energy for continuing his mission. The Good News Jesus teaches opens us to the transforming possibilities of his abundant life given to us.

We all need to go off to a “deserted place” occasionally to “rest a while.” Whether this means taking some time alone each day to pray and rest in God, making Sunday truly a day of rest, or setting aside a few days a year to make a retreat, all of us need time to regain our strength so we can take up our own shepherding tasks. If the mission overwhelms us, we are unable to persevere. If the mission overwhelms us, we are at risk of losing sight of the mission itself.

Achieving a balanced rhythm between the work of discipleship and the need to rest from weariness can be no easy task in itself. Like Jesus, we are called to shepherd—to care, teach, heal, listen, etc. At the same time, we must know when it is time for us to renew ourselves, to allow Jesus to shepherd and teach us, to balance our work of sharing the Gospel with rest, with time to replenish our spirit and energy. Self-giving and rest are two parallel poles to the dying and rising dynamic of the paschal mystery. Too much dying can crush us. Too much rest can lull us into being uncaring shepherds. The mission calls us to a balanced rhythm.