Why do we come on retreat? Maybe we think it will do us good. Maybe like Jesus and the apostles we are exhausted with the demands of those around us and need a rest. Maybe like Solomon we are embarking on a new venture and seeking guidance. Or maybe our reasons are even now half hidden even from ourselves.
Have you found what you were looking for? Or has it been a surprise? Both our readings today speak of the surprise. Jesus is looking for a rest – and he gets one there in the boat – but it isn’t long before he surprised by the crowd who want even more of what he has to give.
Solomon thinks he will handle God with sacrifices in high places – and instead he meets an unexpected God he cannot deal with in the naked honesty of his dream. With no holocausts to protect him he has to speak from his heart and be open about his real need. And God blesses him with the gift of his real need – a gift of discernment – a wise heart to understand his people.
I think Jesus gets a similar gift in our gospel. He learns something when he sees the crowd waiting for him. He learns something about need and something about hope. He is given the heart to understand his people. More accurately he is given the guts to understand them. That phrase ‘took pity on them’ describes the turning over of the stomach, the churning in the bowels, when we see and know and have no option but to respond.
So where are we at the tail end of our retreat? Have we met a surprising God? Have we encountered the honesty of our need? Have we been blessed with wise hearts to understand our own people? Or has the gift been even more of a surprise?
February 7th, 2004