Saving Time – Roy Ragas, SJ

Mark 6:30-34, Saturday in the 4th Week in Ordinary Time

“Praying saves time,” I remember Fr. Francis Clarke (of glorious memory) used to say. It does sound counter-intuitive. When there are many things to do, deadlines to meet, mouths to feed, and dreams to build, and we’re always already pressed for time, wouldn’t squeezing in time for prayer be an unnecessary bother?

In the Gospel today, Jesus and his apostles were having quite a busy day that “they had no opportunity even to eat.” There was so much to do because the people were in so much need. They were so needed; needy people were chasing after them wherever they went. In the midst of it all, Jesus insisted, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

If I were Jesus, would I have insisted on the same? Or, would I rather say, or complain, or rant to those apostles, “Why have you been sitting here idle when work is piling up?”

I don’t know how it is with you but I sure find it unpleasant to have very needy people sticking around. However, to be made to feel that I am needed, that I have the power to rescue another from misery, that I am mighty strong to work, to be productive, and to be effective … those can leave me with a warm, fuzzy, pleasant feeling inside. Those can soothe me from the many aches and pains of my life, including the pain of realizing that, like others, I am needy myself. And so, I carry on with my busyness; I work and work and work some more in order to continue feeling my worth.

Jesus insisted to his apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” What was he inviting them to do? Was he telling them to go on a little vacation? Was he calling them to perform their ritual prayers? Was he trying to prevent them from dying due to exhaustion because of too much work? I don’t know for sure. But what scriptures show us is that when Jesus himself goes to a deserted place to rest a while, he is coming to his Father, to talk to Him, to spend time with Him.

And what does it do to him? What it does to him is that he learns to ground his work’s and his life’s worth in his relationship with his Father. When he approaches the Father, his center of focus becomes the Father. In a manner of speaking, he is de-centered of himself – or, emptied of himself – in order to be occupied with the Father. Such as his Father’s concerns: “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Or, to be nourished by him: “My food is to do the will of the Father.” Or to remember who he is: “I am my Father’s son.” Or, to be driven with a passion to do his will: “Father, not as I will but as you will.”  

When the Father works, he works with him. When the Father rests, he rests with him. Which is why prayer is time-saving because if we do pray, in the manner of Jesus at prayer, what it also does to us is to learn to be with and to move with the Father, whether at work or at rest.

How much time are we going to save if only we learn to be nourished by God’s mercy rather than nourishing our own wounds in guilt and self-pity? How much time are we going to save in our daily work if only we become less-centered on our own interests, projects, and designs?  How much time are we going to save if only we learn to be found in God rather than finding ourselves in things or people or ideas? Prayer saves time, yes, because if we learn how to move with the Father, whether at work or at rest, would we ever be too early or too late? We will just always be there at the right time.

*AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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