Last week the 12 were “sent out”. Mark does not call this a “mission” and it is not a “mission” like Paul’s later, but it is a mission nonetheless.
This week the “apostles” come back. We don’t know how long they were away but we know that “the apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.”
Meanwhile, John the Baptist has been beheaded
Jesus' immediate reaction was to suggest a private place for his disciples to rest. Possibly a case of “keep your heads down” – Herod was not a nice man!
The "lonely place" which had provided Jesus with relief earlier in Mark seemed like a logical and safe place right now.
The Greek word which we translate as “rest” implies the kind of “restoration” which takes place during the Jewish Sabbath and would definitely have involved eating!
Locating a place to eat leisurely, however, was also becoming increasingly difficult. There were so many “comings and goings” – a lovely way to put it!
It is easy to miss the point that the word “they” is used here – The apostles and Jesus are both “doing” and “teaching” and “they went away in a boat”.
We can brush over the fact that “city dwellers” on foot (people from “every town”) are able to guess where “they” are going and get there before them!
Significantly, “they” become “he” as “he went ashore”. Jesus has “compassion” on the people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd”.
In the first reading from Jerimiah, the Lord God berates the shepherds who abandon their sheep. Jesus in the gospel is clearly not one of those!
Our word “compassion” does not do justice to the original. The Greek implies a kind of deep “gut-wrenching” feeling which compels someone to do something.
Which is, of course, what Jesus does. He “began to teach them many things”
It’s a pity that the gospel reading ends here, the next few sentences explain why Mark shifts from “they” to “he”.
The shift from “they” to “he” is due, in part, to the fact that the twelve still do not quite grasp that the Reign of God is truly at hand and that they are both able and called to participate in it. Clearly they didn’t seem to know it yet.
What about us? In the rather bizarre reading from Ephesians, we are told that Christ has “reconciled us with God” and “united us in peace.” OK, so far so good, buy what is the implication of that?
We are all sent out to proclaim the kingdom. “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life!” That’s my bit at the end of mass!
The Lord has this annoying habit of pointing out the right path but he’s not always so good at telling us how to walk it! That’s something each one of us has to work out for ourselves.
Jesus cares about us and invites us too to come away and rest a while. It would be helpful if we could go to a ‘lonely place’ occasionally to allow us to think and catch up. Otherwise, as T. S. Eliot says “I have the experience of God’s action in my life, but miss its meaning because I don’t give time to reflection.”
The lesson the apostles learned the hard way and what we are also called to understand is summed up in the prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I together can’t handle.”