16h Sunday in Ordinary Time   

Mark 6:30-34

Praying aloneThe business world today and indeed perhaps our everyday life is full of action and activity. Words such as ‘hyper’, ‘pressure’, ‘stress’, ‘aggression’, abound and are taken for granted as being what we have to put up with. Today’s liturgy presents a very different picture and is full of rest, peace, silence and gentleness. 

The Gospel episode gives us a glimpse of the Apostles as they return from their first pastoral journeys. They are full of enthusiasm and seem to have been impressed by their success--another business term! They can’t wait to tell Jesus about how well they had done. He did not suggest a refresher course, of a lengthy assessment test but ‘retreat’; step back, come aside, break off, rest awhile! “Come away to a quiet place all by yourself and rest awhile”.

Disciples of the Lord are called to proclaim the Kingdom first. Retreat is a time to be alone—not loneliness, which can be empty and destructive, but solitude where the emptiness creates the necessary space for God. Here we can reflect with God on our call, our mission, and whether God’s glory or our own success is our ambition.

The scripture readings today suggest that we are gently led to this quiet place by the gentlest and most loving of beings, the shepherd. The shepherd leads rather than drives, the shepherd is present rather than obtrusive, the shepherd prompts rather than directs. The place of silence is near ‘restful waters’ and the waters are refreshing and life-giving. It is significant that the only time that Mark mentions ‘apostles’ is in this passage and that when he does it is not in the context of further activity, mission and ministry, but in the connection with retreating from their busy-ness in order to build resources and learn from the Lord. We can hear God’s word most clearly in quiet and silence. An old advertisement for hi-fi equipment reads; “Silence gives you perfect Sound”.