In today’s gospel, Jesus shows His caring, empathetic, and compassionate nature by encouraging His disciples to take care of themselves by inviting them for rest and solitude. To continue helping others, the disciples need time for personal reflection and refreshment.

After long hours of work, Jesus and His disciples were on a short vacation. Jesus was not an insensitive and self-centered vacationer. The Gospel says, “As Jesus went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd and Jesus had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Even though Jesus went for a much-needed retreat with His disciples, Jesus was still able to look at the weary faces in the great crowd, see their needs, change Jesus’s plans, and respond to their needs.

How would we respond in a similar situation? We would probably become angry and critical of people, rather than try to understand them. God never takes a vacation from us. For a faithful Christian, there is no vacation from God and goodness.

Jesus stepped out of the boat into the shallow water and looked for rest. Jesus gently led the people to know God’s love, like a shepherd bringing His flock to pasture. Today, we too are called to be shepherds; we are called to teach, to heal, and to feed. How can we respond to this call? We are living in a hectic world and difficult times with anxieties, fears, and insecurities. Let us ask ourselves: How often do we seek rest and even get away from our normal routine life?

We have to step out from the boats of anxieties, fears, worries, and insecurities in our own busy lives. We must find quiet places to recharge our batteries and evaluate and reflect on what we have been doing, in order to regenerate our spiritual, emotional, and physical energy. We all need quiet time and to spend time with Jesus in personal prayer and reflection!

Let me share with you a small story: Once upon a time, there was a shoemaker, who lived in a small village. He was very busy repairing shoes for everyone in the village. However, he did not have time to repair his own shoes. Slowly his shoes began to deteriorate and fall apart. While he was working continually on the shoes of everyone else, his feet got blisters, and he started to limp. His customers started to worry about him, but he did not take care of himself. After a few years, the shoemaker’s feet were so injured that he could no longer work and repair shoes for others!

This simple and short story gives us the moral message: If we do not look after ourselves, after a while we will be no good for anyone. If we do not take the time to care for ourselves, no one will take care of us. Like this shoe man, he was very busy with taking care of others’ shoes, but he himself forgot to take care of himself. The challenging question is — Are we taking care of ourselves?

As a hospital chaplain, I experience and deal with sickness, sufferings, deaths, and tragedies, every day. Very often, I get so frustrated, tired, and feel pain. Instead of carrying on these feelings, when I sit and spend time with Jesus and share with Jesus, I feel and experience spiritual energy and strength. Also, whenever I feel frustrated and exhausted from my ministry after I share with one of my colleagues and I experience getting back more energy and strength. At the same time, we need to respond generously and empathetically where there is a real need, and we should show our compassion, concern, and care for others as Jesus did to His disciples and the crowd.

Our lives involve constant daily decisions, and we have to slow down. The most important thing we can do is to make priorities in our lives. I have lots of things to do. I am busy, busy, and busy. I do not have time to sit down and relax quietly. Let us put God, family, and friends first, and let us “come apart for a while.” Let us ask Jesus to give us His Spirit of love and compassion so that we can be as sensitive and responsive to the needs of people around us as Jesus is so that we can offer others consolation, hope, and peace, as Jesus does for us! Let us remember the words of St. Mother Teresa, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer!”

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