16th Sunday in Ordinary time
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
Let’s do some musical exercise: in one breath, try to sing the Alleluia without a break.
What happened? That was 16 seconds of not just holding your breath but 16 seconds of expending your breath. So, yes, there was an urge to breathe at some point in order to finish the acclamation. Otherwise, we simply could not go on singing.
What did the US presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and great leaders like Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte, and the great creative thinkers Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Aristotle do in common? They all enjoyed a non-negotiable midday nap. They all discovered how invigorating it was to take a nap.
Science has now helped rediscover the power of the nap. Modern corporate world break rooms now feature lounge couches or even specially-designed ‘nap bubble or pods’. Medical science says that a regular 5, 10, 15, or 20 minute snooze is enough to boost mental productivity and alertness, improve memory and learning, improve heart health, relieve stress, and even boost the immune system while also elevating the mood by allowing the brain and body a few moments of precious downtime to regulate hormones and improve cognitive function.
After the apostles gave reports on their first mission, Jesus did not react; he gave no affirmations nor commendations.
His first words were to invite them to ‘come away’ and be by themselves to rest for a while. So, they went off in a boat.
When they got to the other side of the lake, people were already waiting for Jesus, like sheep without a shepherd. So Jesus, the Good Shepherd, began to teach them, both in words and example.
Did Jesus not fulfill his word that they ”come away’?”
It turned out that the only time they had to themselves was during the boat ride. It was enough as an interlude from the first mission work to the next phase of their discipleship training. Jesus was leading them to realize the bigger picture of the life of discipleship: minding both the people’s and the minister’s needs and planning for the unplanned, among others.
For me, some commentaries seem to miss the point when they only notice the compassionate Lord immediately attending to the people after a brief boat ride with his disciples while undermining the value of that downtime after calling them to come away and rest for a while. They did get the ‘rest for a while’ with what I may call the precursor of the ‘power nap’. Jesus understood the needs of those around him. The disciples needed that precious downtime after their initial missionary stint, more than discussions and evaluations on how they fared. They needed that downtime to personally reflect, process and, internalize what had just transpired and what they were going into.
All of God’s creation needs to take a breather break as did the Creator in the Book of Genesis. Farmers know how to let the field go fallow after the harvest. The land needs to recover from boosting growth and fruiting in one planting season. Just like how people go for rest and recreation time to recover and rejuvenate, to gather strength, and prepare for what is up ahead.
Lately, with record-high temperatures, farmworkers are getting sick and even dying. In some states, the government, under emergency rules, is requiring farm employers to provide shade or another way for employees to cool down and ensure a paid cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes every two hours. One time a comic strip showed two kids crossing the living room where the grandfather dozed off into a nap. One kid commented, “Grandpa snores so loudly.” “Shhh.” the other one warned. “Be quiet, he’s rebooting!”
The downtime for us may not only mean snoozing or lounging or slipping into some reverie but going into a ‘spiritual power nap’, that contemplative silence, that creative, invigorating silence, mindful of being in God’s loving and merciful presence, to just ‘come away’ with the Lord, disconnected from superficial gadgets but deep in communion with God and his people.
Is this not why people come to Mepkin? for some solitude- to ”come away”, as it were, according to the Lord’s very words? And what do they take home as benefits from the brief stay? I pray that they not only find Mepkin a home, but also find their home as Mepkin, pleasant and serene.
Here at Mepkin, we may say we ”come away” daily at nightfall. After the day’s toil and tedium, in silence, God hies us off to slumber as He silently reinvigorates us. Sleep, like the boat ride, brings us ashore to the new day. With the first 5 hours of the day dedicated to personal and community communing with the Lord, we welcome the God-appointed order of a new day. May the Lord accompany and guide us as we all ”come away” with Him – not only at nightfall till daybreak but all throughout each day as we ponder in our hearts the love and mercy of God. For indeed, it is only in the inner silence that we can “come away” with the Lord.