As I was telling you last Sunday, discipleship is directional than about destination. And though we have different missions in life, every mission always has Jesus Christ as direction. Today we deepen this direction in Christ with the return of the Twelve after being sent by Jesus to their first mission last week when He invited them to rest with Him to a deserted place.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat… When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to preach them many things. (Mk.6:30-31)
Friends always wonder what kind of “rest” I take when I go on a little solitude every Thursday on my weekly day-off or during my annual personal retreat. They ask, “anong klaseng pahinga po iyon Father kung nagdarasal pa rin kayo?” Of course, I sometimes go on out-of-town vacation but when we try to reflect on our gospel today, we discover some beautiful dimensions about rest. To rest means to stop because tasks have been completed. This we find in Genesis 2:2 when God rested on the seventh day after creating everything good. In John 19:30, we find Jesus Christ saying “it is finished” when He died to complete His work of salvation that after His Resurrection, He ascended into heaven to seat at the right hand of His Father in heaven. To rest primarily means to stop because work has been completed like God when He completed His works of creation and salvation. But in the gospel today we find how Jesus and the Twelve could not rest nor eat because of the people coming!
Here we find the essential reality about rest which is always to rest in the Lord. We do not only rest with Jesus Christ but also rest in Him. Unlike God, we complete our works by episodes, not in its entirety. Jesus invited the Twelve to rest after completing their first mission given them. There would still be other missions to be given to them until Jesus ascended into heaven. Those missions continue to this day and would never be fully completed until His Second Coming. For us to fulfill any mission in life, we need to rest always in Christ because as we have seen last week, He Himself is our direction in the ministry. That is the direction of intimacy with Jesus, of being close with Jesus because it is Jesus Himself whom we share with the people we serve.
People would always be coming to us but never forget that before they all came, Jesus came first to call us and send us. Therefore, when we rest, we rest in Him too which is a call to a personal and intimate relationship with Him. Note how Mark referred to the “Twelve” last week and now being called as “apostles” upon their return from their first mission. This is an important shift in calling them as apostles for later we shall see they are distinct from followers or disciples. An apostle is someone who is sent forth ahead of Jesus. It is from the Greek verb “apostolein”, to send forth while disciple is from “discipulous”, to follow like discipline. Most of all, an apostle is someone who had seen Jesus Christ like the Twelve so that Paul had to insist on this title too because he met the Lord on the way to Damascus. In a deeper sense, an apostle is also someone very intimate with Jesus Christ, always interacting with Him, doing His works. We are all apostles of the Lord sent into the world to continue His saving works which demands a close relationship with Him in fulfilling that mission that is very demanding, even impossible. Most of all, what the people are really hungry and thirsty of are not things of this world but Jesus Christ Himself – His love and presence, His mercy and forgiveness, His joy and consolation. It is for this reason that when a priest asked St. Mother Teresa for any message to priests, she simply asked them “to give them Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus.” This will also be the focus of the gospel in the next five weeks when we shift to John’s gospel account of the bread of life discourse in chapter six.
In the recent Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, speakers kept on reminding us priests, religious and consecrated persons on this essence of our ministry: we can never be moved with compassion to feed the multitude like Jesus Christ when we are apart from Him. Of the many speakers there, I was moved most on the first day by the Bulakenyo Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo who asked us, “who/what gives you joy in the ministry?” He reminded us to always go back to Jesus Christ in everything we do because without Him, we could never lead people to Him. He capped his talk with a beautiful metaphor of the rooster by demonstrating and mimicking how the rooster would crow at the break of dawn. According to Fr. Alejo, once the rooster had seen the first rays of light of the day, he stands erect first, flaps his wings to make sure he is already awake, then beats his chest to muster enough courage and strength to announce morning has broken with a powerful crow. And when other roosters follow with the same methodology of crowing, the whole farm is awakened as the new day begins filled with life and hope.
Without Jesus in our hearts, without resting in Jesus in every mission we have labored along with its triumphs and failures, pains and joys, it would always be difficult to feed the multitude. Worst like the shepherds of Israel, we could “mislead and scatter the flock of the Lord’s pasture”(Jer. 23:1) that has sorely marred our own history of the Church with the many scandals that have rocked us. Jesus Christ is the promised Good Shepherd God had spoken through Jeremiah (Jer.23: 5-6), the one sent to reconcile us all in God and with others (Eph.2: 16) whom Paul proclaimed in the second reading. This Sunday, let us not just stop from our work to rest with our gadgets and other things. Let us rest in God – magpahinga – let Him breathe on us His life-giving spirit so we may be recreated for the challenges of this new week. Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan. <firstname.lastname@example.org>