Gospel Mandate to “Rest Awhile”
This is an important gospel for those of us who are doers! We see clearly how many people are in need of good news whether about their physical or spiritual needs. There is no time to catch our breath! Who are we?
Sure, some of us have literally dedicated our lives to being Good News. But we include full-time paid ministers, part-time volunteers, or parents juggling the responsibilities of providing for their children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual formation. People leading very busy and demanding lives — the kind Jesus and his disciples lead in Mark’s gospel. If any of the above describes your life, then Mark is the gospel for you. It moves faster than any of the gospels from one event to another. It is a gospel for modern disciples who have too many pressing needs, too limited energies, too many distractions, too much confusion about what’s really important and what ’s just busy work that distracts us from our calling.
The apostle were doers of the word. Jesus reminded them they need to be hearers of the word. Jesus is the shepherd who tends to the needs of disciples and calls us, now and then, to rest. He takes his flock to a “deserted place,” where they won’t be distracted and will be able to focus on the food he wants to give them — his presence and his word about his Father.
The “Activist’s Temptation”
Vincentians are doers and we especially need to hear this gospel. It resonates with most who walk in the Vincentian tradition. We have grown up with “Leave God for God.” We take certain pride (holy, I hope) in the practical, down-to-earth quality of our charism and tradition. We look to Vincent and Louise as our inspiration. Together they accomplished so much to transform their world.
Yet have we heard of the Vincentian temptation? Sister Gertrude Foley, SC, caught my attention with the phrase “trivialize our charism and tradition.” It has been 20 years since I heard her warn some 200 members of the Vincentian Family gathered at St. John’s University, but the words are still fresh in my mind:
I think that we trivialize our charism and tradition if we limit it to mean only works of service. Unless we are as passionate as our founders were, to grow daily into this identification with Jesus and his mission, we cannot claim the name “Vincentian.” We can exhaust our selves in implementing our strategies to serve the poor.
But as Vincentians we will fail if we do not contextualize all of our service in the three-way identification seen so clearly by our founders: the trinitarian relationship, if you will, among Jesus, the poor person, and the servant of the poor.
Isn’t that another way of reminding us to go to a deserted place to rest and recharge?
Rest, Remember, Reflect, Recharge
Without physical rest, we burn out or fall into unhealthy sublimations.
Remember how often Jesus withdrew to remember his relationship with his origins and reflect o his mission. This process of recharging is what gave Vincent, Louise, and those who follow them the strength to be effective servants. It was because they were hearers of the word in their hearts that they were such effective doers.