July 19, 2009

ORDINARY 16 (B)

Come away by yourselves to a deserted place & rest awhile. Ė Mk 6: 31



Our Lordís invitation is to a place where food is not normally found nor rest easy to come by. A deserted place is a symbol for learning how to be fed by God, not for taking a vacation. It does not mean more time to sleep & play, but a Sabbath Rest Ė learning how to be sustained by creation, learning how to imbibe Godís presence & to be free of the idolatry of work. It challenges us to stop being absorbed in the success story & being enslaved to productivity & profit.

We have too many things to do to sit down with God & grow a little closer each day. Sociologists tell us that Americans are among the loneliest people on earth; that we are workaholics; that we are racing too fast to establish ties. We may have several marriages & lots of acquaintances, but very few real friends.

We have lost the ability to sit down on the grass & move closer to God, to family, to friends. So we have little left to give to others, & then we wonder why we are spiritually tired or depleted. We wonder why our relationships are shallow, why we really donít know each other, or why ďimageĒ is so perversely & obscenely important to us. Itís because it covers up the fact that we are hollow inside.

The pity is we teach our children that always being active, always being on the go, always being involved in as many projects as possible is the epitome of success. This is how, we tell them, they acquire all the achievements they can proudly list on their resumes to be sure they get into a good college, the door to the good life & a good income. Ultimately, all too often these so-called successes canít handle their personal lives or lack the spiritual resources to endure pain, suffering or disappointment, or the spiritual vision to put compassion, honesty, family & friends first. Such spiritual resources are acquired only by ďcoming apart for awhile.Ē

Summertime is a time to travel, to hit the beach or the mountains or relax with a good novel, & why not? But sometime during the year, whatever the season may be, we must heed our Lordís invitation to come apart, to learn once more how to establish ties with God & with others.

I do not consider a silent retreat a luxury but a necessity, & not just because Iím a priest. I suspect we resist such opportunities because we use the busyness & noise to distract us from having to genuinely face ourselves & recognize the divine spark within.

Todayís Gospel reminds us that itís not just time to vacation, but to embrace the Sabbath Rest. In Psalm 95 God says, ďThey are a people whose hearts go astray & they do not know my ways. So I swore in my anger, they shall not enter into my Rest.Ē Thatís the price we pay for being too distracted. AMEN!