This week’s Gospel reading from Mark tells us that Jesus told his disciples to come away to a deserted place and to rest for awhile. He had seen that they were fatigued. Maybe they were on over-load, maybe they were near the breaking point. They were clearly at the point where continuing as they were was risking their health and the success of their mission.
In our busy New York world it is almost and insult to begin a conversion with the question, “Are you busy?” “Of course I am busy! Where do you think I derive my value from, except by being busy!? I am a responsible, productive human being!”
But the wonderful thing about our reading is that it shows that Jesus read his disciples and could see when they had had enough. He was of course steeped in the tradition of the Sabbath rest, the idea that since God rested on the seventh day of creation, we too should also find time for regular rest. We are created in the image of God, we are fully human and we all need time to rest and restore ourselves.
Perhaps we don’t need an esoteric reading of the Gospels to tell us to take a rest. But it might be good to know that resting and retreat is a necessary part of life and one that our faith takes seriously. We all know people who are burnt out and others who are suffering from various disorders of body and mind, because they only find their value in staying busy. We need to separate ourselves from this modern myth.
When Jesus tells us to get away and go to quiet place to rest, it is spiritual discipline that allows us to not only rest, but to realize that even in resting idleness, we are loved and valued by God.
Ecclesiastes teaches that there is a time and a season for everything. Perhaps we need to take seriously the idea of this season of resting, meditating, praying, finding our core value in our connection with the living God, so that we can once again joyfully resume our sacred calling of being disciples of the one who heals and restores human health and dignity.