Homily for 16th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B
Jesus must have felt that way, too. We see that in today’s Gospel passage. Jesus suggests he and his apostles go on vacation. At least he tries to go on vacation, but people have other ideas. Today’s passage comes after intense period of work by Jesus and the disciples. They’ve been out proclaiming the Kingdom of God, doing healing of the sick. Last week we heard about the sending of the 72 disciples out to preach, two by two. Now they come back to home base and excitedly tell what’s been happening, but are probably tired, so Jesus says, in so many words, “Now, let’s take some time to relax!” So they go off to a “deserted place,” in other words let’s get away for a while to refresh ourselves.
It’s unfortunate, but our American work ethic tends to make us feel guilty about “taking time off.” We worry it will affect our work performance reviews or somehow make us look like slackers. We even have a saying, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop!” But, even the Pope takes off the month of July and August and goes to his “vacation home” like all the rest of the sensible Europeans. Benedict the XVI has been known to remind Catholics that “down time” is essential to Christian vocation. The Baptismal vocation (to proclaim the Good News of Jesus) requires Vacation. Even the commandments of God remind us each week that we’re not made for work but to make our life a journey with the hope of resting in him. We’re supposed to take a “vacation” every week. It’s called Sunday! God rested after a week of work. And so we are supposed to, also. The obligation of keeping Sunday was given us to renew us in our vocation. The Sunday obligation isn’t just attend Mass, but to take a day to pray and REST! And, by extension, occasionally it’s o.k. to take some downtime over the course of several days to renew ourselves in the Christian’s life work.
But the downtime is not for escaping! Students often think of Summer vacation as an escape from educational work. But there are learning opportunities in summer, they just seem more fun!
We can never escape the presence of God. Vacation time is a good time to reconnect with the Spirit of God. Pope Benedict XVI gives three suggestions for a “Christian Vacation” that serves the purpose of reconnecting with God and being refreshed to return to our vocational mission as Christians
- Go somewhere where you experience the beauty of God and the diversity of his human creation – See in nature and people different from yourself the face of God from another perspective who is revealed in the beauty of nature and diversity of humanity.
- Take a Bible along…read a part of it you’re not familiar with, instead of an escapist novel. At least keep up the spiritual practices of prayer you do at home.
- Visit a sacred or religious place at least once on the vacation. Be surprised by the different expressions of spirituality that lead people to God.
We can never escape the presence of God. In fact, Vacation can be the time to reconnect with God, not to escape.
As Christians, though, we don’t take vacation for selfish reasons. We can’t take some down time only as “Me Time.” That’s selfish. The Gospel of Jesus taking his disciples off to a deserted place continues in the next sentence with weary people looking for his help. Our rest rediscovering the presence of God in our lives is meant to lead us back to mission. We take vacation so that we’re made strong again to carry out the work of a Christian, to proclaim the compassion of Jesus in word and deed. We rest so that we can bring new enthusiasm to our ministry as parent, priest, caregiver to those in need. That is an unselfish attitude toward taking time off.
And Lord knows, there’s a lot of people out there waiting to be comforted, people who have no one to point them in the right direction that will give them a peace of mind, a sense of well-being, a hope in a better life.
We probably all heard about the shooting in Colorado this past week. The news was horrible and unsettling. Evil reared it’s head and tore apart the lives of so many innocent people. How are we to respond as Christians? We can respond with the strength that comes from resting in the Lord, renewing ourselves Sunday after Sunday by resting, taking time off to contemplate the presence of the Lord in our midst. Those times of rest help us remember that evil doesn’t triumph. Resting in the Lord trains us to see that God’s love was present even in the midst of tragedy. For what do we become present to in our Sunday rest at the altar of the Eucharist? The sacrifice of love that turns death into life. We can remind those who question where was God in the midst of bullets and terror there were people trying to help each other out of the theater to safety. Some even gave their lives falling on loved ones to protect them from bullets. Strangers comforting the frightened. Jesus was there sharing the horror and in his human weakness still loving people. Ultimately, with the vision that comes from resting in the Lord horrible events remind us that we NEED what only Jesus can give, a reconciled humanity that sees each other as brother and sister to be helped to live, not destroyed. This is what St. Paul was telling us in the second reading.
Only if we balance the work of being Christian with the need to have our Spirit’s re-created through rest and reflection will we be the shepherds Christ wishes the Father to give the world that will lead his human flock to the day when we rest forever in the Lord, a reconciled humanity. We are those shepherds, renewed by Sunday Eucharist and our time with the Lord in “deserted places.”