If we make a careful note of
TODAY’S PSALM [23 or 22] and GOSPEL [MARK 6: 30 – 34] we will see Jesus showing himself as the Lord Shepherd of those he had sent out to ‘speak’ and who had “returned … and told him all they had done and taught.” The Lord said to them: “come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.

Before we go any further note well that those sent out had not only taught but had also done. Their teaching (speaking) had been accompanied by doing (action)! I often wonder which is more exhausting – the teaching or the doing?! In addition, also note that the Shepherd is, in some real way, joined at the hip to those he had sent.

He gives me repose … near restful waters he leads me; he revives my soul.” (as our Psalm proclaims)

There is not one of us who does not stand in need of being revived, of making time to compose ourselves in rest and, with the shepherd, to ensure that we are proceeding
along the right path.” There are those who think this is a wonderful idea but they are actually too busy. If this is true (and very often it is!) then we need to discern whether we are, in fact, busier then God ever intended us to be?!

While recently spending some weeks in Alabama, I found it more than interesting that most large firms and businesses regularly gather all their managers and directors together in a fairly distant and secluded place away from the work location, and there they spend two or three days listening to new ideas, evaluating their work, as well as taking time for rest and recreation. It is even more interesting to see that they call this exercise.

A RETREAT! Indeed, it is a retreat from the scene of action …. “come away by yourselves … and rest a while.” Every Christian needs to make time for RETREAT!

Self-evaluation (not introspection) is an essential element for
ALL leaders – not only the clergy. In the prolonged absence of retreat the real danger is that we slowly become less able in our work of being sent into the world. As a result we find (as Jeremiah today points out) that we scatter rather than gather, and we “do not attend” properly and effectively to the essential tasks at hand. while the right path has become something of a tiresome detour. There is, indeed, something very real about ‘burnout’. We all stand in need of proper “leisure time” – leisure time with the Lord as well.

Even though the Gospel reading indicates that this particular retreat was a short one, both Jesus and the disciples returned to the job at hand.

I want to suggest two particular points for consideration. Firstly, every Christian has to be concerned about our ‘appearance’ before the Lord. Are we dressed for action and our lamps lit,
(see Luke 12: 35) or are our lamps going out for lack of fuel? (see Matthew 25: 1ff) We must take care of, and plan, for our appearances. SUNDAY MASS IS NOT ENOUGH.

Secondly
, we must not be discouraged if we are somewhat tardy, nor be judgmental on the basis of our perceived lack of readiness in others. In this Sunday’s NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 2: 13 – 18] Saint Paul points out that Christ has the same availability to those who are “far off” as well as those “who were near.

At regular intervals we wander between the two extremes but are always in the sight and care of the Shepherd to whom we are ‘joined at the hip’, and both the far off and the near
have access in one Spirit to the Father.