BY MARCUS MESCHER | July 19, 2021
Sunday’s Readings

This is a gospel passage we might skip over, as it’s sandwiched between Jesus missioning the twelve disciples and multiplying loaves and fish to feed a crowd of five thousand. Sitting with this scene, we can imagine the apostles’ emotional state: drained from their first travels as partners in Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry (Mk 6:8-13) and concerned about what the beheading of John the Baptist might bring (Mk 6:17-29). Tired and afraid, the disciples are surrounded by a growing crowd seeking to have their needs met. Jesus knows there will always be people in need. In this moment, Jesus teaches his disciples to be attentive and responsive to their own needs, calling on them to “come away to a deserted place and rest a while.”  

Come Away and Rest Awhile...Together

Reading this passage today, we might find it especially easy to relate to the exhausted and worried disciples. The pandemic both caused and exposed so many needs; who among us doesn’t feel stretched thin if not outright depleted? With COVID-19 variants on the rise, we might be nervous about what the days ahead will be like, given the return to school in a few weeks.   

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” as the saying goes. While true, today’s gospel does more than endorse self-care as a good and just expression of compassion. This passage is illuminating because it shows that connection is the way forward. Whatever the disciples do while they rest and whatever they talk about—giving thanks for how they were able to help people or lamenting any obstacles they encountered on their journey—the disciples rejoice and commiserate together. They experience personal restoration precisely through the mutuality of their relationships. 

Self-care isn’t just another item on our to-do list; it’s the habit of respect and responsibility that makes the inclusion and interdependence of solidarity possible. It’s no accident that this retreat from the crowd sets the table for the miraculous feeding of five thousand; making time to rest and reflect, to give and receive compassion, and take stock of reasons to be filled with gratitude increase our capacity to practice tenderness and generosity. Healing is a communal gift and task. 

3 replies
  1. Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    What is emotional draining ? Our lives right now are still emotionally drained as a by product of the pandemic. We tried to attend to the community by taking care of the sick and dying as well as the very young and elderly. All of us probably have someone we know in each of those groups. We needed to attend to others but at the same time, like the apostles we needed the grace and energy from God. We need to be still and know that God is reaching out to us and embrace us in our time of hardship. He is encouraging us in developing and nourishing our faith. In some ways the pandemic did that and continues to do so. Our attention to others is really our attention to God also. We give a call to a person who lives alone, we fix a meal for a family who are overwhelmed with taking care of kids or their elderly family, we ask someone to help us get groceries delivered. All these acts of kindness nourish our faith and love of God. In the midst of all these obligations we again remember the presence of God in our lives and take a few moments to say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the times we realize how He is with us. Faith is a gift that we cherish constantly throughout the day.
    The Ethics of Encounter by Marcus is an example of nourishing and developing our faith and an excellent book for his college courses. It is a humble yet powerful book calling all to our focus – Christ and His Church.

    Reply
  2. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Healing is a communal gift and task. Well said Prof Mescher. May the Divine Healer increase our capacity to practice tenderness and generosity.

    Reply

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