I delivered this homily on Sunday, July 19, 2015, at Saint Pius X Parish and the Church of the Assumption in Nashville, Tennessee. This was the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The apostles must have been excited when they came back to Jesus after their assignment. They healed the sick. They drove out demons. They taught. They did all these awesome things, and they were excited to do more. I imagine them being something like little kids all trying to tell stories to their teacher at the same time, constantly talking over each other in their excitement. On top of that, people knew that Jesus was a miracle worker (remember, they didn’t really understand who he was, yet – just that he could do some really great stuff), and they kept coming to ask him for things.
So here’s the picture: the apostles are excitedly talking over each other about what they did on assignment. There is a constant stream of other people interrupting those interruptions. It must have been pretty chaotic. Finally, Jesus calms down his disciples and suggests that they go to a deserted place to rest. Now, if I were one of the disciples, that would be the last thing I would want. I would just want to tell Jesus all the cool things I had just done, then go do more of them. Imagine the high of working the miracles of Christ directly and visibly. These don’t require the eyes of faith, but Jesus’ disciples could report back that they saw someone who was entirely paralyzed, and just tell him to get up, and he did.
Did you catch the problem in what I just said? It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t want what Jesus wanted – that is a symptom. The real problem is far more insidious and subtle. Let me repeat a key sentence in there: “I would just want to tell Jesus all the cool things I had just done, then go do more of them.” I just claimed for myself the work of God! That is a deadly trap for anyone in ministry – and indeed anyone in the world. I think that may have been going on when Jesus called them away. There are two reasons we need rest and quiet from the religious perspective. First, we need to recuperate; second, we need to recall that all that we are doing come from God and should lead back to him. The moment I start thinking that I am the one working the magic to make things happen – in my life or in my ministry – I have left the path of God. I have instead entered on the path of selfish egoism.
Now, does that mean that I should live life as passive as a rock to let God do what he will with me? Absolutely not. If that is what God wanted, he would have made you a rock. But, there is still a temptation to go to the other extreme from that which I pointed out earlier. We are so afraid of damaging God’s power and majesty that we attribute to him every step we take and every move we make. We passively sit by as spectators of our own lives expecting God to make every decision for us or at least to make the decision he wants so abundantly clear that we can abdicate our own responsibility for our lives. Is God really made more glorious by thinking he suffers from petty jealousy of his own creation?
It is this balance that is lived when we remind ourselves that each of us was baptized as priest, prophet, and king.
Priest: We offer our very lives as a sacrifice to God.
Prophet: We declare the good news of Jesus Christ and God our Father every day in all we do.
King: We order all creation to the greater glory of God.
So Jesus called his disciples away with him to a deserted place to rest. In the same way, we are called to approach each Sunday as a day uniquely set apart for God. The Church has us come to worship God in the Mass. Jesus offers his own body and blood for our spiritual nourishment. We are called to avoid unnecessary work for the whole day. In other words, when it’s possible, mow the grass on Saturday or go grocery shopping during the week. We must do our best to set Sunday aside as a day uniquely for God.
What happens when we don’t do this? We will eventually burn out, both spiritually and physically.
Picture for me a glass. That’s you. Each time we stop to pray during the week, each time we set aside time for God, each time we attend Mass to worship God and receive the Eucharist, we pour water into that glass. It is only when that water begins to overflow that people around us look and see that there is something about us that attracts them. That is when we preach the Gospel with our lives. What would happen, though, if we stop or become lazy in those things that make God pour into us? What will happen if we just pour from ourselves to support our family, our friends, our jobs? We will very quickly run out of water to pour, and we will continue to try to pour when our glass is entirely empty. That’s pretty frustrating, but it is what so many of us seem to try to do every day.
Ok, so what do we do with all this? Well, you are already doing step one by being here and listening to me today. Attend Mass. If you have time during the week (and I know that can be nearly impossible) maybe attend a second one. We should each find any way we can to move unnecessary work from Sunday to some other day. Stop and pray during the week – alone, with your spouse, with your family, with your friends. We must remember that our very life is a gift from God, and we are to remember that all we do is a gift from him – and thank him for it.
Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.
We see Jesus over and over in Scripture go by himself to rest. He spends a lot of time in the desert and deserted places. Jesus knew how to pray. He knew what was going on here. If we follow his example, and stay close to him and the Father and the Spirit he gives us, we will possess that constant source of water welling up inside us so we can continue to preach the Gospel with our lives and to work miracles that we may never see – But God knows.