The very first chapter of Saint Mark’s Gospel (verses 35 to 37) tells us that Jesus got up one morning long before dawn and went off on his own to pray. The disciples looked for him and when they found him they asked what he had been doing. “All men ask for thee.”
Jesus needed peace because of the unending busyness of his life. No one today will feel that they face quite the pressure that Jesus did, knowing as He did what faced hymn in the end, but to be a Christian worker in the 21st-century can be a stressful thing and Christian workers, too, need time for peace, prayer and reflection.
That is the value of retreat. A retreat allows time for prayer and reflection and reminds the participant that one thing above all others matters in this life: the relationship with God. God’s call can be heard in the busiest city centre at the height of rush hour, but it is not particularly easy in those circumstances to heed it; to “drop everything and follow Him.” There is no modern life without distraction, but there can be a temporary refuge. Inner change may happen at any time and under any circumstances, but there can be no harm in creating the environment of peace and contemplation that encourages it.
The message to take from that passage in Mark’s gospel (and it is also in Luke) is that Jesus did not wait until there was nothing else to concern Himself with; He made time for prayer and contemplation – for RETREAT – because even He needed those moments in which the inner self can be recharged. And if He needed that time for renewal, how much more does everyone else need it?
In the pressure cooker world the Christian worker can sometimes face, it is important that he or she does not lose sight of the need to look after themselves. Only those who care for their own peace can hope to look after anyone else’s.