Rest and Responsibility

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 — Week of Proper 12, Year One

Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, 976)

Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)

2 Samuel 3:6-21

Acts 16:6-15

Mark 6:30-46

Two things strike me today as I read the story from Mark’s gospel. First, I connect with Jesus’ compassion for the disciples (and for himself) as he responds to their weariness, inviting them to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Second, I sense the obligation Jesus places on the disciples when they recognize the hunger and need of the multitude. He tells them, “You give them something to eat.”

When I am very tired, as I feel today, it is good to hear the kind voice of Jesus inviting me to withdraw, to rest a while. My tendency toward imbalance is my habit of trying to do too much, more than time allows. I can create stress for myself; I can flirt with exhaustion. It is easy to relate to the circumstances of the disciples — “For many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.” Life can be too full, too busy. “Withdraw and rest a while,” is a blessed permission. Even God rested on the seventh day and built sabbath into the very fabric of time.

But sometimes there is no rest for the weary. According to Mark’s story, the crowd anticipated the disciples’ destination. By the time they reached the deserted place, it was no longer deserted. I would probably be angry if I had been in Jesus’ boat. But Jesus “had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” So Jesus taught them.

When it was late, the disciples sought to shut down the meeting so the people could leave the isolated place in time to get food in the villages. It strikes me that the disciples are alert enough to be aware of their neighbors’ need. They show some compassion. So often we aren’t aware, we don’t recognize the hunger or need of our neighbors. The disciples do well to see the hunger.

But Jesus throws it right back to the disciples. “You give them something to eat.” You take responsibility. It is your responsibility. That seems like another way to say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The disciples protest. They don’t have enough money. (Somehow my mind goes to our Congress’ current, and newly discovered, obsession with America’s debt.) Jesus tells them to see what resources they have. It still doesn’t seem like enough. But when they do a bit of organizing — “groups of hundreds and of fifties” — and some prayer, there is enough. There is abundance.

When the story is finished, there is a sense of satisfaction and refreshment. All have been filled. I don’t feel so tired anymore.

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