A Reflection on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 18th, 2021
Reading I: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Responsorial Psalm:23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Reading II: Ephesians 2:13-18
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
In next Sunday’s Gospel, we are presented with the gathering of the Apostles just after they were sent out two by two by Jesus to preach repentance, drive out demons, anoint, and cure the sick.
I have to say when great things happen in our lives, especially those moments when we feel as though we have accomplished something most remarkable or something powerful has taken place, or where we have participated in something quite amazing, it is common for us to share with others our experience, our journey through that encounter. It could have been something as simple as a vacation, an encounter with someone special or possibly a retreat.
This is where the Apostles are mentally. They have just returned from the outing in which Jesus sent them. They have miraculously returned unscathed with many stories of their preaching, anointings, cures and their ability to make demons flee. They want to download and share everything that they have experienced with their teacher, Jesus.
However, the problem they have, is they, along with Jesus, have become the center of attention for many who seek their gifts, their abilities. The hustle and bustle of life around them have become so hectic that they have not even had a chance to talk with Jesus, much less had time to get a bite to eat.
Jesus recognizes this and tells them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
How does this resonate with us?
Are we often distracted by all the busyness of everything going on around us, or maybe feel as though many others are pulling at us for one thing or another that we cannot find the time to slow down and sit with Jesus? Do we find ourselves unable to share with him all the amazing things happening with us, happening in our lives, with our families? Like how we saw his merciful love in the death of a loved one, the smiles of Jesus himself on the faces of newlyweds, the story of creation in the eyes of a baptized infant, or the redemptive power in the return of a friend or loved one to their faith.
The fact is there is a multitude of amazing and miraculous happenings with us and all around us every day, but we are all too often overburdened with daily tasks and submerged in what society expects us to believe is the norm for our lives.
Jesus is saying to us, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
There are four parts to this request:
Come away / by yourselves / to a deserted place / and rest a while.
Come away. It’s not “going away” … it’s “coming away” with Jesus. He is the embodiment of restoration and refreshment. We need to accept the invitation of Jesus and leave behind the hustle of society and the distractions in our spiritual lives. We need to come away with Jesus.
All by yourselves. Yes, Jesus really means it! He doesn’t want to be on a conference call or zoom meeting; he wants to be wholly engaged with you and you alone.
To a deserted place. Group retreats are great. I have been on and participated in ACTS retreats, and they are A-MA-ZING! But we also need time alone. We need to go to where there is nothing. A place deserted, perhaps desolate. I’d even add, deserted by wifi … all 3,4 & 5G, email and voicemail. Deserted by Facebook and Twitter. We need to recharge our batteries with Jesus and no one else. We have a spiritual need to get out of the rat race and be alone.
And rest awhile. This isn’t laziness. It’s not a perpetual state. It’s temporary. It’s for “a while.” But, for that while, it’s about rest. We cannot be a beacon of light to others if we don’t rest and restore our batteries. We cannot be what God wants us to be if we don’t slow down, shut out the outside world filled with noise and listen for Him in the small whispers of restful silence. Also, if we don’t slow down and rest, we will be of no use to anyone, especially God.
Now that we are in the midst of summer—follow Jesus. Follow him to a deserted place, all by yourself. And rest. For a day here and there. For a week. Heck, take as much time as you need. Put down the cell phone and iPad. Don’t update your status. Set the away message on your voicemail and email, and don’t even think of checking on it.
This is the spiritual practice of rest that Jesus is prescribing for us. The world may think we’re a little crazy, but we’ll be crazy in all the best ways.
Plus, what an amazing story we will have to share with others when we return!
Spiritual love and blessings,
Deacon Jeff Borski