While in the Seminary, right before classes began, we started the year with a silent retreat. From Sunday evening to Friday morning, we were in absolute silence. There would be talks, sometimes during meals a spiritual text would be read out loud, there was daily Mass, and a chance to speak with a spiritual director. I would go on walks on the property, and sometimes if the gate to the retreat center was open, I’d go into the forest nearby from where you could look back toward the city of Rome.
The first 24 hours I would sleep. Usually, of those 24 hours, I was asleep more than I was awake. Only then, after some restlessness, I was able to enter into the silence.
When the apostles returned to Jesus after traveling from village to village, healing the sick and proclaiming what Jesus had taught them, Jesus said:
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” With these words, Jesus taught his apostles it was important to examine their experience, to retreat for a bit in order to be better prepared to reengage their daily lives.
This however did not happen: we heard in the Gospel how the people found out where Jesus and the apostles were going, and they quickly caught up with them. No rest for the weary.
This passage reminds me of a mother of young children. No matter where she goes, or what she is doing, as soon as she thinks she has a few minutes by herself, someone calls out, “mom”. Poor mothers, even when in the bathroom, they cannot be alone.
It also reminds me of a couple I know in Augusta. I had dinner with them about one year ago and they described their “COVID experience” with five children in the house ranging in ages from 2 to 12 and two full time jobs. Both woke up at 4am to work from home, then took turns working and overseeing the children’s online school work, and once all were asleep, both went back to work. I felt so guilty, because as a priest, I found plenty of time to pray and reflect when everything was shut down… but I am fully aware that was not the case for young families.
Jesus knows life is busy, that we get involved in many things, and that we have many responsibilities.
Modernity has given us great technology to help us get things done more quickly, so we can have more leisure time, but this technology has only made our lives faster paced.
Yet Jesus still invites us to “rest a while.” How do we rest a while when the world values efficiency and production? When some companies barely give their workers a break to go to the bathroom and when it’s easy to extend the workday by taking work home?
From the times of the Israelites, God has asked us to keep the Sabbath Holy. Of the seven days of the week, one day should be noticeably different: dedicated to family, to catching up on personal needs and relationships, and most importantly, catching up with God.
You are here at Mass today because you recognize the importance to take up Jesus on his invitation to come and rest a while. You’re here to cast aside all worldly concerns, and to lift up your minds and hearts to God.
Just how we rest a while on Sunday, Jesus invites us to find a bit of time to rest a while each day. Of course, this varies from person to person, and your ability to carve even a few minutes to dedicate to prayer.
I am convinced God is more concerned about quality rather than quantity when it comes to prayer. I oftentimes hear people say, “Father, I don’t pray enough” or simply “I never pray during my week.”
Here are some tips:
Create a daily routine of prayer that you are pretty sure you can achieve: maybe spending five minutes every morning reading the Readings for the Day for Mass (apps, online) and reflecting on them. Maybe it’s spending five minutes a day reading one of the Gospels. Maybe it’s purchasing a book about a saint you love or want to know about, and spending five minutes each day reading. Maybe it’s praying the Rosary in your commute to work, or doing an examination of conscience before going to sleep.
Start with five minutes… it’s better to start small, to be successful, and then increase, than to make great promises in prayer, not succeeding, and feeling defeated.
Jesus invites you and me to “come rest a while.” He sees our need for Him. His heart goes out to us when we feel bewildered and lost, just how when he felt the people chasing after him were like “sheep without a shepherd.”
As Jesus comes in our midst at this Eucharist, we rest a while in his presence, and as he makes a dwelling in us. May he grant us the peace and healing we long for and need.
Picture is mine, all rights reserved.
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time