It had been a particularly busy night for Jesus and his disciples. After arriving at Simon Peter’s home in Capernaum, they discovered that his mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up out of bed, whole and healed…and then the real hubbub began. Neighbors and friends, and friends of friends, began arriving at the house, looking for the miraculous touch they had heard this man could offer. And Jesus healed them all. He touched every one. He didn’t excuse himself to go get a bite of whatever Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was cooking. He didn’t say that he was tired from his journeying and teaching and needed to retire early. Whatever his plans had been that evening, he canceled them. He didn’t leave. He stayed, all evening, until the sun went down.
But, in the dark hours of the morning, Jesus retreated into the wilderness. He snuck out of the house before anyone else was awake just to spend a few moments alone in a solitary place. But this was not just an escape. This was not just because our Lord needed some alone time. Perhaps he did. Perhaps he really was an introvert who needed time alone to recharge his batteries. But the Gospel of Mark is very clear that this morning was not one of those times. Because this morning, Jesus went out to be alone…and to pray. He took the time to be still and know his God. This retreat was not just an escape from the busy-ness of a house filled with people; this was an intentional stepping into the presence of God.
Three times a year, the Servant Year residents retreat into a solitary place to spend a few days together in prayer. These retreats are a time for conscious reflection on the path they have tread so far. Where have the residents come from? Where are they going? Where are they right now? And, most importantly, where is God in all of that? We spend time together in conversation and prayer. We are sometimes in silence and sometimes in laughter. We eat together and pray together – all the while holding up the fact that this retreat time is not just time away. It is not just time to relax and rejuvenate. It is not just time to rest, as important as that kind of time may be. This is time to retreat into the presence of God, to step away and step back from those things that distract us from God’s constant presence, and to step into his arms of comfort and strength. I hope that you will pray for our residents as they arise early in the morning (okay, not so early in the morning – more like lunchtime) to go into a solitary place to think and to pray, to talk to each other and to God, to spend precious time in holy, blessed retreat.