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20th January: Day off that never was!

He said to them: `Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile!' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31

No leisure! How well we understand that phrase when so often we lose our half-day, or our plans for an evening out are spoiled by crises. But the Lord was watchful of his disciples' needs and arranged for them to have a day off. But read what happened (Mk 6:31-56)!

It seems that the only time that they had to themselves was during the row across the lake. The rest of the day was spent with the crowds who had pursued Jesus round the shore; and when the precious hours had gone, there were still 5,000 mouths to feed. Can you sense their disappointment and frustration? What was Jesus trying to teach them? Was it that brisk physical exercise could be reinvigorating? That being in a different environment was stimulating? That though they could not get away from finding work for him, his work is itself refreshing? That it was better to share what they had -- be it their precious free time or their iron rations -- than to keep it to themselves? That even though the day seemed to be ending in frustration and exhaustion, he was still able to dispel fear and fatigue? If these were the lessons he wanted to each them they seem to have missed the point: `they did not understand' (v52).

He is no less watchful of our needs than he was of theirs. He is interested in the amount of off-duty we have, and how we spend it. He understands the tiredness and the disappointments because he has experienced them himself. If things do not work out just as we have planned, it does not mean that he has forgotten or that his plans have gone wrong. As Lord of our lives he is Lord also of our leisure. He wants to share our off-duty as well as our days on call. He wants to show us that he can meet our need, and the need of others through us. He can still work miracles in his disciples' time off -- if they spend it with him.

Lord Jesus, please teach me how I ought to spend
my off-duty, whether alone or in a crowd, in activity
or in rest. And when I lose my leisure time through
no fault of my own, may I know your companionship,
your creativity and your renewal.

Further reading: Mk 6:31-56.


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