In the last couple weeks we spoke about prophecy, and how all of us are called to share in the prophetic mission of our Lord Jesus Christ and his church. The first reading toda speaks quite directly to leaders within the church, "shepherds" who must lead their peopl truly, according to how God wants them and not according to their own whims or the ways of the world. Sometimes for myself as a priest proclaiming in a prophetic way what Jesus wants his people to hear can be very painful and difficult, and other times it is not so hard, like in today's Gospel.
"Come away and rest a while" Jesus demands of his apostles. I think it is important to remember that this was not a suggestion, or a nice idea, but a command that Jesus gave to his disciples. Jesus commands us to rest a while!
For the Jews, this was supposed to happen every single weekend. And for Christians also, at least until the recent past, this was also seen on Sundays by the fact that people didn't work, most stores were closed, and the day was spent relaxing and catching up with family and close friends.
In our world today, we have lost in many ways that identifying part of who we are as God's people: we have been absorbed by the constant activity of those around us, and have lost the gift of Sunday rest - it is meant to be a great gift a blessing. We have heard the world say to us again and again "don't just sit there, do something!" And slowly but surely, we have given in.
We have lost the ability to hear the Lord say to us: "don't just do something, sit there!" Meaning, the Lord is begging us, "Don't just be filled with all this activity that doesn't have any meaning, spend some time reflecting on what life is about, what your life is about, and what the Lord's will for your future is, even how you are to spend this day!" "Come away and rest a while!"
I've only read two books by Abraham Joshua Heschel, but today I just happened to be speaking to you about him again after I did two weeks ago: this book The Sabbath is a phenomenal little book! He speaks in poetic, symbolic, colorful language, using stories and vignettes from his childhood and adulthood, to describe his religious experience of his Jewish observance of the required day of rest that comes at the end of every week.
This period of rest isn't something only for Sundays, but should happen every single day as well! This is one of the things I talked about when I spoke of the four signs of a dynamic Catholic: prayer and study are essential for a living, growing, life-giving Christian.
I know for myself, there are lots of things on my plate. Some of them are very much right in front of me all the time, like my messy office, or the boxes of things I carried over from St Pius that have not been unpacked yet! Not to mention all of the various things that come to my desk and through email and the telephone. If I am not careful, I can get swept into doing hours and hours of things that God might not want me to be focusing on at this point. Just because something is right in front of you and seems urgent, does not mean that it is important. We have to be people of prayer, and people of discernment to know the difference between important and urgent. God wants us to use our time well, and only prayer, only reflection, only those little times of rest every day will help us to realize what is important, what is truly worthy of our time and energy and work. Maybe God doesn't want me to unpack these boxes for the next couple months, maybe he wants to teach me a lesson that some of these things are totally unnecessary and I can probably recycle them! What kind of lessons does the Lord want to teach you, that perhaps the constant business and activity does not allow you to here? Don't just do something, sit there, with the Lord in prayer, and reflect on what you are doing.