Sunday Homily & Bulletin
Homily and Bulletin
Sunday, July 18th
(16th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Readings for Sunday, July 16th
If you haven’t read or heard today’s Mass readings for this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time please read them first, particularly the Gospel, and then return here for my thoughts.
Today’s Gospel follows up on last week’s. Last Sunday we saw Jesus send His relatively new apostles off to preach! With urgency! They travel in pairs, carry nothing, share God’s message of love and forgiveness, and heal the sick. The apostles, with so much more to see and learn in the years ahead, were already being asked to speak and act. And there’s a great lesson there.
Sometimes we think we must be trained theologians before we share our faith with others or talk to a friend or a neighbor about God’s love. We think, “I can’t do that. I don’t know enough.” The Lord’s first followers had been instructed for only the briefest of times - and then sent to bring Good News to others. They preached and healed, and found they were effective. Many listeners came to believe. The lesson? Sharing the Gospel is something we can all do and must. You don’t have to be a professional. Then, the apostles returned to Jesus, tired. It was time to rest.
Today, we hear the ‘flip side’ of the spiritual life of Christians. Jesus’ followers are called to rest. He says, “Come away to a deserted place and rest a while.” The action stops. It’s time to pray and reflect. This story forms the basis of Christian reflection on our action - of the importance of setting time aside for prayer - for retreat from the crowds - for rest - following our activity. If we don’t take time to rest - don’t take the time to reflect on what we’ve been doing - we risk overlooking just how present God is in our lives. And we risk losing a sense of the importance of what we’re asked to do in Jesus’ name. The balance between action and reflection is vital.
About forty-five years ago I met an interesting team of Dominican priests. There were four of them. They gave week-long missions in parishes all through the South. One week they’d give an intense mission with lots of preaching, Masses and confessions. The next week they’d return to their home. Once there they’d spend that week praying, studying and relaxing. They knew this to be necessary to keep a certain balance in their ministry, lest they stop praying and learning and enjoying life. Without balance we get stale. Worse, we can lose the joy of knowing God.
That happened to Father Joe, a priest of Baltimore, a good friend of mine from the mid-1970s. Much older than I, he’s dead now. I met him when I was a seminarian. And he was a whirlwind. He was a scholar of Greek and Latin, wrote books on Dante and Shakespeare, and published his own poetry. He was the priest who translated the documents of the Second Vatican Council - hundreds of pages - from Latin to English for the entire English-speaking world, and he was given only a few weeks to accomplish that enormous task. He taught at the seminary, was the editor of Baltimore’s diocesan newspaper, accompanied visiting diplomats on tours of important churches. In the 1960s his “star was rising.”
Along the way he came to know a young boy without parents and occasionally would visit him at a local orphanage. One day Father Joe arrived there and asked to see the boy, who was outdoors during a time for recreation. Asked to wait, he was shown into a visitors’ parlor. In that room he walked over to an enormous picture window, looked out, and could see the boys playing in the distance.
Suddenly, all his work, duties and expectations hit him like a hammer. As he was looking out the window and up, above the playing fields, it dawned on him that he hadn’t taken the time to just look at the sky for over a year. He crumbled to his knees and sobbed and sobbed. This is disastrous for a poet, a priest, or anyone: to so ignore the beauty of creation or time for prayer or the need for rest. And he changed.
In the Gospel we see tremendous crowds converge on Jesus, so much so his little band of followers “can’t even eat.” The crowd had this extraordinary need to be with Jesus. Note that he crosses the Sea of Galilee in a boat. The crowds pursue him on foot and incredibly they beat Jesus to the other side. The sheep weren’t going to let anything prevent them from being with the Shepherd.
I imagine it was quite a challenge for Jesus to find time to be alone with His heavenly Father. But we know he did it. He went off by himself to rest and pray. He went to the desert. We need to do so as well. But, as we know, that’s not easy. And the “desert” can be any place. It can be far away. Or it can be Mt. Wachusett or the shore at Narragansett. It can be St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer or your parish church, backyard, or bedroom.
This is a story of spiritual hunger. And the hunger for God is real. The feeling that God is absent from life - which afflicts many today - is why so many are dissatisfied with life. Deep down we really want, and certainly need, a relationship with God.
The crowds perceived that Jesus was the One who could satisfy the deepest longing of their hearts. Nothing would stop them from pursuing him. They listened and were fed.
May we seek Christ with the same earnestness, through prayer, through rest. And may the Lord fill our hunger.
Homily for July 18th
Bulletin for July 18th
on Sunday, July 18 at 10:00AM