William Barclay makes this statement: “The rhythm of the Christian life is the alternate meeting with God in the secret place and serving people in the market place.” The essence of the Christian life is the flow of moving into the presence of God, from the busyness of life, and then returning to involvement with people, enriched by our spiritual renewal. How can we do God’s work without some time to practice the presence of God in our lives? But prayer and devotion that does not lead to practical action for good is simply self-indulgence.
In today’s Gospel, Saint Mark continues his story of Jesus’ response to the return of the disciples from their first missionary journey in the countryside of Galilee. The twelve disciples had an exhilarating but exhausting experience. The Lord must have seen fatigue in their faces and so He said to them, “Come away for a while and rest.”
Come away and rest … what beautiful words! But many never take any time away. Some argue that it is too difficult to take time off. Others are actually afraid to be away. If people do go away, they generally take work with them: cell phones, laptops, and all those other forms of instant communication.
But when Jesus invited His disciples to go to the deserted place, He was not inviting them to drop out. No, He was simply inviting them to pause for needed rest before continuing to bless and to serve. It was an invitation to observe the proper rhythm of the Christian life.
We need to hear our Lord’s words about the importance of Sabbath. We need to rest sometimes. Our world is a hectic place, and we can get addicted to being needed. We must be careful that we do not wake up with an imbalanced life and an arid spiritual existence.
Come away. Today we are told that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Who promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Today our Lord calls us to join Him in a deserted place, a place where we can be alone - not forever, but for a while.
He calls us to find that deserted place from time to time, where the only marvel is not technology, but the wonder of His presence. This rest is not laziness or irresponsibility, but just a time away, without which we will be of no use to anyone, especially to God.
So embrace the spiritual practice of rest and renewal. Rest, relaxation, and vacation are not only God-given gifts, they are God-directed necessities.
When we obey the Lord’s command to come away and rest we will discover that “the peace of God that passes all human understanding will keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God.”