Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year B
Mark 6: 30-34
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 the 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.
Jesus was very driven in terms of his mission. He must have worked long hours and faced the stress of the unexpected and the overwhelming in terms of the people who wanted his attention and to listen to him. If his disciples were run off their feet he must also have been in the same situation. But Jesus was very observant in relation to the disciples’ needs, and those of the crowd who seemed rather desperate in their desire to be with him.
Many people live in stressful situations where the mission or tasks to be accomplished can be all-consuming. These situations often occur in the work environment but are not restricted to it. They occur in families, especially families coping with young children, illness or elderly relatives. They occur in organizations which do voluntary work, as the needs of those they serve drive the committed people doing the work. They occur when a community is preparing for big events or coping with disaster.
In a stressful environment the person who is in charge of or leading others in that environment has an inherent responsibility for their well-being. The temptation is to drive everyone forward to achieve whatever needs to be done, regardless of the effects it has on the people who must carry the burden of the work. Every person in charge must be observant of the people they are working with and ensure that they are physically and mentally well.
A shared commitment to the mission or task can be a powerful motivating force which causes people to work to a point where they impair their own well-being, their effectiveness in the role, and family relationships. The people concerned all share the same good motives but unconsciously an environment is created where to work a little less or to drop back for a while is seen as not being fully committed to the mission – so people don’t do it even when they desperately need to because health and family relationships are endangered. The leader’s role in insisting on time-out and manageable workloads is vital.
Sometimes the person in charge may drive others to work in a highly stressful way as a result of personal ambition. There may be little benefit to the people who are doing the work in terms of acknowledgement, financial recompense, or promotion opportunities.
Every leader must examine his/her conscience concerning the motivation for their drivenness. To drive other people into stressful situations for personal gain is using them in a way which is not consistent with their dignity as persons. It is also incumbent upon workers in such a situation to consider whether they should continue to allow themselves to be exploited by another in this way.
Jesus and the disciples did not get the time in “a lonely place” at the time that they needed it. The compassion which Jesus felt for the crowd probably meant it was many hours before they could take the time-out they needed. We may have to delay our time-out due to the pressing needs of others, but it should only be postponed not cancelled. Jesus has given us permission to rest, which we often find difficult to give ourselves.