‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.
Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!
‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called: The-Lord-our-integrity.’
In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while
Reflecting on this gospel today, I am reminded that I should schedule a retreat at some stage, as I had never been for one this year. Last June, I attended the Power Conference in Potta, Kerala around this time of the year and it raised questions among some Catholics on my motivation to do so. Well here goes the answer in the gospel of Mark today. My Dad asked that I do this, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
A retreat, is a honeymoon with Jesus. It is common that married couples take a break every now and then, to cherish and hang out with each other. When couples decide their holidays, it does not mean they do not have other responsibilities and constraints, yet they choose to focus on the need to ‘steal’ some time away to be with each other.
Jesus is a spouse to each of us, and time with Him only helps us know Him in a way that we are convicted that we do actually have it all in Him. He is our Shepherd and there is nothing we shall want, as we have Him.
During my retreat at Potta, it was also summer graduation week at the university where I work, making it a really a tough choice to pack up and go. I chose to stay for proceedings with prominent people and left the next morning, members from our retreat group who flew on that morning had to fly back after reaching Kerala as the situation warranted. When I reached there the next morning, I found out that we had no rooms because the ladies who arrived earlier decided, upon arrival, to share a room with their families instead, leaving us with the only option of a room with 2 other men in it. I went to this retreat alone and as I was trying to sort our rooming, I realised that an elderly lady also did not have a room; so we ended up as roommates.
At the retreat, I received physical healing from my swelling feet and my allergy to lentils, a common ingredient in the food we consume at home. I received a lot of inner healing and spiritual graces too. There were two main groups at the Power Conference and, as a single person who has never married, I qualified to be with the youths. I heard many testimonies of young people who had witnessed the grace and mercy of God in their lives when they were faced with failure in their exams and in their careers. This wisdom really helped me when, a few weeks after the retreat, I failed an exam. Who would have thought that I would be in the same situation as others one day, and that their testimony could strengthen me?
During the week-long retreat, I was able to re-immerse myself with the wonders and beauty of a Lord who is love, mercy and grace – all of this in abundance.
Is it time for us to schedule some time with the Lord? If you really cannot get away, an hour by the Blessed Sacrament is an option, a commitment to daily personal prayers and a commitment towards looking for short day/weekend retreat are options too. I sometimes have this conversation with myself when I cannot find the time to attend a retreat, leaning on the fact that I cannot give ‘time’ to the One who gave me everything, including ‘time’ itself.
Where is the Lord calling you and me today? He is calling us to peaceful restful waters, a place where we can be His sheep, fully trusting God and knowing that He is all we need.
What is the distance between where we are right now to the destination of a place in our lives and hearts where we can truly say and believe: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
The Lord loves us even if we don’t acknowledge Him, yet it is our choice if we want to continue to live in the shadow of our own preoccupations, doubt, fear, sin, shame and stubbornness. Now is the best time to return to a Shepherd who knows your heart, let us allow Him to own it too.
(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord, make a way in our lives so that we can ‘steal away’ to your restful waters daily. Guide us to a retreat that you would want us to attend. Open a door in our lives so that we can be witnesses by sharing your goodness all the days of your life.
Thanksgiving: Lord, you are my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. I know you and I am found in you, my Lord and God.