I returned home yesterday from a liturgical seminar in Riverside, CA with my bishop. I, along with 35 priests and deacons from Southern California and Arizona, spent two days going over the finer details of serving with the bishop. The seminar was fine, even fun at times. But probably the most important thing I learned at the seminar was not about the details of the services. The most enlightening bit of new information was coming to terms with the fact that I am out of gas. I am not depressed or exhausted but I could really use a little break.
I have often thought about what happened when the disciples asked Christ for a little break.
They needed a break and Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31
It’s great, right? It is nice to know the context surrounding this call to take a break. Just prior to this John the Baptist has been beheaded. It is after the Forerunner is killed that Jesus says, “Let’s take a break.” Here is their vacation plan: climb in a boat and sail away from the crowd. The people saw the disciples and Jesus sailing away and ran around the Sea of Galilee. When they put to shore it is packed with people who are hungry and asking for food. The disciples say, “It’s late, send this crowd away.” Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”
I am thinking about this story as I am running low on fuel. When the disciples were out of gas (and I am sure that Jesus was out of gas too) and needed a break, Jesus was with them and 5,000 men ate from 5 loaves and 2 fish. After the throngs were fed Jesus sent them away again on the boat so that they could have a break. He dismissed the crowds and hiked up the mountain to pray. He saw them struggling against the waves and He walked out on the water to them.
When we are tired and struggling God is there. But, when we are tired there may also be more work. Just acknowledging that I was running low did wonders to my spirit. I spoke to a couple of brother priests and asked the prayers of a dear friend today and my spirit got up out of the basement. Thanks be to God. Everybody needs lonely places. Just be aware that sometimes the Lord leads us to lonely places to do ministry. Is that what you have found?
30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36 send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa’ida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 51 And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:30-52