This is the Bible Alive reflection for today’s gospel.
In today’s Gospel we learn that Jesus decided to take his disciples into the desert to rest. They had been to-ing and fro-ing, with mealtimes as the only pause. Christ knew full well although the compassionate deeds they were doing were important, it was also vital for them to rest and be with God. Unless we pause to engage with the silence, peace and mystery of the Divine, we cannot deeply relax, which is important for our health; we become exhausted and then have nothing to give.
Time for prayer and contemplation is essential, but it’s not easy in this modern age of technology. As Sister Wendy Beckett remarked: “This is the first age in which there’s been very little silence unless it’s sought for. Now nearly everybody can live their whole life being entertained, and that’s very dangerous, because it means you’re never in contact, except at night, with what you are. So although I think the longings and the needs are the same in all ages, and the greeds and the selfishnesses, this age has got this great obstacle to prayer — constant entertainment — and I think people really have to say I’m going to have a period in which I can just be silent.”
God is found in silent places. Most of us do not have a desert close by! We can retreat, if we live in a city and our home is noisy, to a quiet church or a park; and those lucky enough to live in the countryside can choose to switch off the mobile phone and the television and listen to the wind blowing and the owls hooting. God dwells in the sounds of nature and in the silence of the wild.
These moments of contemplative quiet not only nourish us, but they also enrich our relationships with others. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton writes: “If I love a person, I will love that which most makes him a person: the secrecy, the hiddenness, the solitude of his own individual being, which God alone can penetrate and understand… There is no true intimacy between souls who do not know how to respect one another’s solitude… We cannot live for others until we have entered into solitude. If we try to live for them without first living entirely for God, we risk plunging with them into the abyss.” Time in the proverbial desert allows us to be who we truly are, with more to give.