Have you ever been inconvenienced by journey’s length – having been diverted due to road works or weather conditions? A couple of years ago my luck ran out one night when I wanted to take the car ferry from Passage to Carrigaloe. Due to dense fog I had to return through Cork to make it back to Cobh – and I did say my luck ran out...the Jack Lynch Tunnel was closed for the night! And I can now tell you –because I measured it – and I hope you never have to measure it for yourselves - it’s a 19 mile trip – I appreciate the ferry all the more ever since! I was anxious to get home and so I just had to put up with the inconvenience!
This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of two journeys – and both lead to Christ. The first is the journey of the apostles, worn out and weary from their missionary wanderings around Israel.
The second is that of the people who have been enthused and energised who make their way to Jesus also in the light of what they have seen and heard.
Both sets of people – the 12 apostles and the ordinary people who have heard the Gospel of repentance preached to them – seek Jesus.
Let’s look at the journey of the people first. They are so anxious, desperate, even spiritually hungry – that they are prepared to make the long way around the Sea of Galilee. There is no short cut for them, and their perseverance is rewarded because Jesus sets out to teach them at some length for Himself. They are prepared to go to great lengths themselves. The trip across the Sea of Galilee measures 4 miles, whereas the walk around it to where Jesus and the Apostles landed is a 10 mile stretch – in the heat of the desert that would be good perhaps 3- 4 hour journey in a crowd. The time, trouble and yes, inconvenience, is worth it because of their sense of hope and expectation – they are not deterred easily. To catch sight of and even to be healed by Jesus is worth the trouble to them.
Jesus take pity on them because they are like sheep without a shepherd – rudderless as it were, wandering, unsure of themselves, lacking any clear direction in life, confused, and uncertain about what to do next and where life is taking them, burdened with worries and anxieties. Jesus’ teaching is what they need – and also a personal meeting or encounter with Him.
What the people needed is what we need. We share their sense of confusion and wandering. At times life seems so hard. We lack clear goals and in these days clear moral and spiritual leadership. We crave for people who will lead us in a sure footing, where we can have confidence and assurance that everything will be alright. It sometimes seems we are without clear political and religious leaders. We do not want to be lest to ourselves.
The apostles are in a sense victims of their own success. Now in contrast to their small beginnings – the mission that we heard about last Sunday - the followers of Jesus number in the hundreds and thousands. There is no time for them even to eat – not something we can complain about too often ourselves.The apostles – the first bishops - seem incapable and beyond the ability of providing what the people want, at least by their own efforts.
Jesus says very little in today’s Gospel – in fact He only utters 16 words, yet they are also meant for you and me: ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’.
Let us – you and me – find some lonely place, away from noise and distractions and mobile phones – I recommend Mt Melleray in Co Waterford – and the high cross about a mile behind the monastery – what peace – there, or some similar place, in the silence Jesus speaks and we can listen. Jesus, we will find, is the answer to all our questions.
The word COME is used a number of times by Jesus in the Gospels – ‘Come and see’, ‘Come to me all you who labour and over-burdened and I will refresh you’, and today: ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’.
There in some lonely place we might find that the word COME might just be an abbreviation for: ‘Christ Offers Me Everything’; Christ Offers Me Eternal life, or finally, ‘Christ Open My Eyes’ – to the needs of those around us.
The important is to listen and respond to Jesus invitation extended to you and to me today – ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’.
Jesus Christ is the answer to all your questions and searching.