16th Sunday B: Rest Awhile

To listen to today’s homily please select the audio file below:

“Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest awhile.”
Jesus says that to his disciples whom he sent out two by two to proclaim his message and to cure those on whom they laid their hands. In our reading today from Mark’s Gospel, they’re back, enthused by the way people responded to what they said and the powerful cures they worked. They had shared in the power of Jesus; they’re elated– and also probably tired too.

Instead of sending them out right away, Jesus tells them “Come by yourselves and rest awhile.” If we ever think of Jesus as a relentless campaigner, someone driving his disciples hard, just remember these words from the gospel. He tells his disciples to rest, even though I’m sure after they experienced such success they want to go out again as soon as possible.

“Rest awhile.” We have to live a balanced life. We can’t be working all the time, even if it’s an important, holy work. Physically, our bodies can wear out, if don’t get enough sleep or eat the way we should, or get a break from what we’re doing. Today so many people treat their bodies like machines. They don’t pay enough attention to them. They drive themselves. Our bodies are delicate gifts we need to care for. They need rest.

But also we need to rest spiritually. Let me say something about that.

I was listening recently to a group of young adults in their mid thirties who were talking about their careers and their jobs and all of their personal and financial goals. They wanted everything, but that’s not going to happen in a world that works 24 hour a day, where the computers never rest, where businesses have become seven day affairs.

We are living in a driven society, and we certainly need to change some of its punishing structures. That’s what Pope Francis is reminding us in his recent encyclical, “Laudato. Si.” But besides changing some of the unjust structures in our society, we also need to recognize another power at work besides us.

There’s a poem by the French poet Charles Peguy called “Sleep.” It’s a beautiful little poem in which God tells someone like us to take it easy and get some rest. In the poem God frequently says, “Do you think I can’t handle things without you?” Isn’t that what we often believe?

We need to pay attention to the presence of God. God guiding us, sustaining us. We need to hope in God. Here’s part of the poem:

Human wisdom says “Don’t put off until tomorrow
What can be done the very same day.”
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you: Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and
your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which
stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have
passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the one who puts off what he
has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the one who puts off what he
has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is the one who puts off. That is to say, blessed is the one who
hopes. And who sleeps.

The poem’s not advocating procrastination or an unwillingness to face reality. No. It’s asking us to believe that God’s with us, acting, guiding and sustaining us. We don’t have to do it all ourselves.

Going back to our reading for today, the disciples are overwhelmed by the crowds that descend on them in a deserted place. “What are we going to do?” they say. Our gospel next Sunday tells us what God does. He feeds the multitudes.

2 thoughts on “16th Sunday B: Rest Awhile

  1. Gail Smyder

    Beautiful. Something I know I need to hear and share… Thanks Fr. Victor. Stay cool and rest……

  2. cenaclemary12

    Reminds me of the Latin “Ora et Labora” which urges balance between prayer and work. Being aware of the Presence of God as I work makes my work a prayer even tothe point that I become a prayer! Too much stress brings on hateful outbursts…sometimes with a gun! Ever notice the level of road rage that fills drivers…turning their vehicles into deadly weapons? Lord, help us to know the peace you promise in restful prayer!

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