Today we look at a short reading in which, at first glance, nothing much seems to happen. It’s one of those readings that connect two more interesting stories (in this case the beheading of John the Baptist and the miracle of the loaves and fishes). Or is it?
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.
And he said to them, ‘Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that there was no time for them even to eat.
So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognised them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
The Apostles are returning from some work they have done. They are properly tired and at the same time eager to tell the Lord what has befallen them. But as Jesus is quite popular, he invites them to come with Him to some quiet place and rest. This immediately brings to mind the times when we are alone with the Lord: at times of Adoration, receiving Him at Mass, or simply when we are sitting by ourselves for a bit, in Church or just at home praying or reading and reflecting on some Biblical passage. These moments give us rest, or rather, Jesus gives us rest. And at the same time, just like the Apostles, we tell Him of the things that have befallen us, the things that keep us busy, the things we worry about or fear, or simply just about ourselves. We need these moments of spiritual recharging. Just like the Apostles, we too are sent out by Jesus, and we too need to return to Him at times to be able to continue our work.
But, in apparent contrast, we are not solo fliers. Sometimes people need us. Or, as in the text above, people want to be with Christ. He recognises that, and after only a short time with His Apostles in the boat, he returns to teach the crowd. In this we may read again an example for us. After spending time with the Lord, we must let Him go to other people, and today He needs us for that: we need to bring Christ to other people,”to teach them at some length”.
If we don’t have Christ, we can’t bring Him to others, so we must first spend them alone with Him. Christians do not operate in a vacuum. We must go out and recognise the sheep who have no shepherd and bring Him to them: the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.