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We need some rest in the Lord

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mark 6:30-34) continues the story of last week. Now the disciples come back from their active preaching mission, Jesus sees they need time away from the work and thus He wants to go away with his disciples to find a place to be alone in solitude. However, when Jesus and His disciples arrived at their destination, there were already crowds waiting for Him, and Jesus began to teach them.
This passage shows that Jesus tells us too that there is a need for a balance in our lives. Jesus and his disciples are very busy with preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons. We read that they don’t even have time to eat! But now it becomes clear that it is not only about our activities and ministries. Jesus is teaching all his disciples that there must be time away for prayer and relaxation. We can find examples in the Gospels of Jesus going to a lonely place to be alone so that He could pray, there are many such passages, particularly in the Gospel of St. Luke in which  Jesus himself gets up early to withdraw to pray, to spend time with His Father.

It is important to realize this, that even when we are doing work for God, we need to be careful not to become purely active. This has the risk of pushing Jesus in the background. When we don’t spend time with God on a regular basis, when we don’t talk to Him or listen to Him, He might slowly become a stranger to us as we distance ourselves slowly from Him without realizing it. It is important that we are always content in our prayer, as St. Paul teaches us (Rom 12:12). This also helps us to focus on the fact that it is God’s work and not ours. By giving Him time in our lives, we are also reminding ourselves that it all depends on Him and we are cooperating with His grace and His mission.
Of course, some will object and say that just sitting silent in prayer will not get any practical things done. But it is important to realize that a balance is needed. Work can very easily become a replacement for prayer to such an extent, that in some cases, it can almost become an excuse not to pray. Praying can be hard sometimes, but it is our indispensable way of getting closer to God. Jesus sets about teaching the waiting crowd himself as they are like sheep without a shepherd. We need to realize that we are these sheep, and not shepherds, we too need to be taught and guided by the real Good Shepherd.
Moreover, the Gospel this week shows that even when the disciples take some time out, the crowd keeps following them. It is often, even though it is counter intuitive, that while we spend time with God in prayer we actually get more practical work done in the time following. Spending time with God does not diminish our outreach to others, but helps us to focus on what is essential. In prayer we grow in Grace, which is a participation in the love of God. This flows to all the aspects of our being, of our lives, to the extent that everything we do becomes grace-filled, and as such we do it better. Jesus is the true light we bring to others.
So, instead of moving towards pure activism and doing what we think God wants us to do, we move with God as our guide so He shows us what we should really do. Prayer enables us to be far more effective means of helping people on their journey of finding God and bringing them to the joy of fully knowing Him.

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