This week, the Gospel provides pointers on how to avoid burnout in our ministry, whatever it may be, and to act with justice in our own lives as we strive to bring it about in the world.
Today is the start of Teacher Appreciation Week, and as a former Cristo Rey teacher, I understand that burnout is real. After pouring myself into teaching for four years, I was spent. Many of us approach our work for justice in this way. We give until we’re exhausted and sometimes even resentful.
Lesson 1: Invite others into the work
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
Sometimes we are tempted to “go it alone.” Simon Peter reminds us that by simply stating our intention to work, we open ourselves to community and support. How often do I invite people into my work? Who can I reach out to when I am feeling overwhelmed?
Lesson 2: Persist in hope
So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Simon Peter and his friends fished all night without catching anything, and haven’t we all experienced this at some point? It feels like we’ve worked ourselves to the bone without seeing any progress. When have I persisted and experienced a breakthrough in my ministry?
Lesson 3: …and Celebrate
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.
Imagining this scene makes me smile. A middle-aged fisherman so excited to see his friend that he hops out of the boat and runs through the water toward him. How might this image invite us to rejoice in the presence of Jesus and let it fill us with joy, even when our work feels overwhelming?
Lesson 4: Eat breakfast (literally and metaphorically).
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
It’s that simple. How many times do we skip this literal opportunity to fill ourselves with energy because we have so much to do? Jesus invites them to refuel after a long night of work and also wants to give them spiritual sustenance. This applies to us as well. How often do we make time to feed ourselves physically and spiritually before we start our work?
Jesus, concludes the Gospel with “follow me.” I pray that all people can follow Jesus’ lead by taking care of themselves so that they are able to work with abundant joy and love, even when it feels difficult.
Brenna Davis is director of Education for Justice and environmental initiatives for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She graduated from Boston College in 2010 and served in Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer. She previously taught theology, coached cross country, and served as main office coordinator at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School. During her time there she was the self-proclaimed assistant to the director of facilities in all sustainability initiatives on campus. She is a certified spiritual director and a Cuyahoga County Master Recycler.