“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
In our Gospel passage today, Jesus Christ, seeing that the disciples were exhausted from doing the work of God asked them to retreat into a lonely place so they could rest. We serve a God who values the need for rest. In the story of creation, we are told that after all His work of creating the heavens and the earth and everything in it, God rested. (Genesis 2:2-3).
Being made in God’s image and likeness, it is only natural that after working we must rest. Our responsorial psalm sings: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want, near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit.” Rest helps to revive our spirit. All work and no rest leads to spiritual burn-out and even physical ailments.
Note that Jesus does not ask his disciples to go and sleep. He told them to go to a lonely place (that is, a quiet place) to rest for a while. There is a difference between sleeping and resting. While rest may involve sleep, rest is not all about sleeping. To rest is to stop working, to sit back and reflect on the work one has done. Resting is creating time to meditate, to plan and to pray.
Every minister needs to create time to rest. When we are too busy with the work of God, we easily forget the God who gave us the work. This is a fact that our flock cannot understand just as they couldn’t understand at the time of Jesus. Some parishioners take offence when they are told that they cannot reach the priest. Some have this mind-set that a priest can never fall sick, they feel scandalized to see a priest at the cinema, in a games/recreational or social centre.
While the disciples were going to rest to revive their drooping spirits, the people noticed where they were going and ran on foot ahead of them. As soon as they landed in their lonely place (hide-out), they met a large throng of people waiting for them. Surprisingly, Jesus, far from being angry with them, looks at them with compassion and starts teaching them. The action of Jesus teaches us that even when we are tired, feeding the flock remains a topmost priority. God has a way of supplying extra strength needed at such moments.
Jesus felt pity for the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The so-called religious leaders were busy monitoring the trade going on in the temple, feeding fat on the people’s offerings and sacrifices but refusing to feed the people with God’s word. These religious leaders as Jesus described were hypocrites and the people could see through their pretence.
In Nigeria today, the one factor responsible for large crowds flocking around men of God and churches springing up everywhere is the overwhelming failure of our leadership. The honest truth is that over seventy per cent of those who come into our churches are not looking for Jesus like these crowd in our Gospel passage. Today’s Christians are looking for those basic things that any responsible government should provide. They are not trooping in to hear about how to live a holy life, to repent from sin or love their neighbours. No! They want to hear about financial breakthrough, miraculous job opportunities, divine helpers, destiny changers and so on.
Today’s Christians are worse than sheep without a shepherd, they are sheep ruled by wolves in political power as well as wolves disguising under the umbrella of religion.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Revive our drooping spirit and bring us closer to you every day. Amen.
Bible Study: Hebrews 13:15-21, Psalm 23 and Mark 6:30-34).