The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.
But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them.
As Jesus went ashore, he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Two details in today’s gospel reading are rather striking. The first one is the decision of Jesus to take time off—he and the Twelve apostles— from their evangelizing activity and to simply go away on a vacation. This fact in itself is an indictment on busybody Christians who act as if the salvation of the world rested on their shoulders. They go about always in a hurry, always serious-faced, always intent on pursuing some apostolic endeavor. At some point somebody would do well to stop them in their tracks and remind them: “Hey! The world has already been saved! Our job is merely to announce it.”
The second striking detail is the statement, “(Jesus) had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” Few Christians realize that teaching the Christian faith (whether as parents or friends or catechists or priests) is one of the greatest acts of compassion possible. For it boils down to bringing light to those in the darkness of ignorance and despair. So many people are lost as regards the basic truths of life: where do we come from, where we are going, how do we get there? To enlighten them is a magnificent act of compassion.
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