Gathering Around Jesus

23 July 2006: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 23, 1-6; Psalm 23; Eph 2; Mark 6, 30-34

The Gospel today tells us of Jesus’ time management. First, about work. Mark tells us that Jesus and his disciples are overworked that they have no leisure to eat. We also know that the disciples have been gone to preach the Good News. There are many demands. People follow him everywhere like sheep without a shepherd. Out of compassion for them, Jesus and his disciples tirelessly work for them.

In the life of a Christian, there are tasks to accomplish, responsibilities to do, and plans to be completed. There is work in the office, in school, and at home. There are people to care for --- the clients and customers, the academic and non-academic personnel, and members of our household. There are added demands for those who are involved in church and civic activities. A friend of mine told me, work would always be there; but not our loved ones.

Second, about gathering. The disciples come back and gather around Jesus, reporting what they have done and taught. They retreat to a deserted placed all by themselves to rest awhile. This is important. While we all move away from our home to work, who matters in our lives are those to whom we come back to. As the disciples come back to gather around Jesus, we too come home to gather around the family’s table to share what happened during the day. Unfortunately, families gather less these days. Captain Barbel, Majica, Bituing Walang Ningning or even our work have snatched precious family time from us. In the past, we did what the disciples did: at family table we reported what we had done, what happened during the day and who were the people we encountered. We used to treat meal times or at least, dinner as a holy hour --- we prioritized family time more than television programs and gimmicks.

Moreover, we gather to unwind for coffee or a late night movie with those we care about --- we do not unwind with people who cause us stress! Furthermore, just as the disciples gather around Jesus, we too gather around Jesus when we attend mass. We feel this gathering of disciples around Jesus especially when we come to Sunday mass.

But there is something more in the gathering and resting. Scientific study tells us that physical growth happens when we are at rest. It is the time when muscles, tendons and ligaments repair themselves. Muscle mass, for bodybuilders, are formed during downtime. Our brains develop new connections when we sleep especially on the 7th and 8th hour (Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep). That is why, when we lack sleep, our performance is impaired. The same thing happens in our relationships. During mealtimes, family relationships are strengthened and enriched. During coffee breaks and movies, the muscles of friendships develop mass and tenacity. During Sunday masses, ligaments that connect our lives to God and God to us grow stronger.

Let us look at how we manage our time. If Jesus had time for his disciples, we too must have time for those we love. As we flex our muscles in work, we must also allow our heart to expand.

*The UP Filipiniana Dance Group, choreographed by Van Manalo, at the 11 AM Sunday Student Mass, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, University of the Philippines.

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