Cycle (B) 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34

 Jesus sent out his disciples with the mission of bringing God's message to the people. When they came back from their mission they reported to Jesus all that they had done.  The demanding crowds were so insistent that they had no time even to eat; so Jesus took them to a lonely place that they might have peace and rest for a while.

Today's passage places before us the rhythm of the Christian life. Go out from the presence of God, into the presence of men, and return from the presence of men to the presence of God. It is like the rhythm of sleep and work.  We cannot work unless we have our time of rest; and sleep will not embrace anyone who has not worked until he is tired.

 This passage very clearly warns us against the danger of too constant activity. No man can work without rest;

and no man can live his Christian life without giving time to be with God. Dallas Willard says that practicing silence and solitude is the most important spiritual discipline for people today. In our busy, noisy world we need to "unhook" and get away to be alone with our Lord.

Jesus began his public ministry with 40 days of withdrawal into the desert wilderness to fast and pray in silence and solitude. He was alone, hungry, hot and thirsty, surrounded by wild animals, and tested by Satan. But the truth of Jesus' fast is that the Father, the Scriptures, and ministering angels strengthened Jesus! His time alone with God and quietly focused only on him empowered him to resist Satan's temptations (which came at the end of the 40 days) and it focused and prepared him for his public ministry. Interspersed throughout Jesus' ministry of preaching, and healing, we see him withdraw from the crowds again and again – often getting up very early to do so – in order to be quiet and alone with the Father (e.g., Mark 1:35, 3:13, 6:31, 46).

Jesus' rhythm of life is the secret to how he got renewed in his Father's love and empowered by the Spirit for his life and ministry. In quiet prayer he listened to the Father and received discernment for many things.

Michael Faraday, an early pioneer of electromagnetic current, once addressed a convocation of scientists. For an hour, he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the nature of the magnet. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a midweek prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual; batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God's presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place.

John the Baptist is another one in the Bible who practiced solitude with God. He was quite a figure. Imagine a man who lives in the wilderness with wild animals, dresses in hairy camel skin tied on by a thick leather belt, and exists on a diet of locusts and wild honey! That's John the Baptist. His message was as austere as his desert surroundings: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2, NASB).

John lived in the desert with his disciples and hundreds of people came to him there to be baptized and taught. Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets, but John sought no glory for himself. Instead his life ambition and great joy was to prepare the way for people to go to Jesus. Like John the Baptist, the Desert Fathers of the early church made solitude in the desert their way of life. They lived in the Egyptian desert in private huts where they weaved baskets to earn a living and while they weaved they prayed and meditated on Scripture. They fasted often and practiced other ascetic disciplines (some of the monks did so in extreme and odd ways that have been given undo attention). Regularly they met individually with their Abba for spiritual direction and as a community for worship.

The ultimate test of the value of silence and solitude is if they empower us to love others – if we've truly been with the God of love and his love has purified us and put us at peace then we'll love others. So we need to realize that silence isn't something only for when we're alone; it's also about learning to control our tongue in our relationships.

"The fruit of solitude," explains Richard Foster, "is increased sensitivity and compassion for others."

The crowd saw Jesus and his men going away. But some people walked round and were there before Jesus and his disciples arrived. They earnestly sought the company of men of God. More than ever today men crave to be in the company of   men of God, to experience the holiness of God. Today we are entrusted with this mission – to impart the experience of the holiness of God to our contemporaries. For that we require to do two things. First of all find time to be with God, secondly find time to be with men. Hence, the rhythm of Christian life is the   alternative meeting with God in the secret place and serving men in the market place.