16th Sunday Ordinary Time B “Resting with Jesus”

sea of galilee at sunset

Homily — 16th Sunday OT B July 23, 2006

Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.

In last Sunday’s Gospel, the Apostles for the first time since meeting Jesus were sent out two by two on foot, away from Jesus’ presence, into the world Jesus came to save.

The Gospel doesn’t tell us how many days or weeks the Apostles were away from Jesus, on their own; Mark only says that during the time they were away (they) drove out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick, and cured them.

Their first missionary endeavor was an enormous success, and the Apostles as they returned must have on a natural level felt like they just won the British Open: exhilarated, but exhausted at the same time.

And so after this hard period of missionary work, Jesus, the mighty God, gives them one of the nicest commandments in all of Scripture: come away by yourselves (with me) to a deserted place and rest awhile.

Yes, that’s right, vacationing is an integral part of the Catholic Faith. In some ways, resting and recreation are moral obligations for the follower of Christ.

And it’s surely proof that human nature has fallen due to original sin, that God had to make the duty to rest one of the Ten Commandments.

But while we are called to rest every Sunday by going to Church, by spending time with family and friends and by refraining from unnecessary work or shopping, and while God also commands us to rest every now and then by taking a more extended vacation, there’s more to the Christian notion of resting than this.

Notice, for instance, how the Apostles don’t get what we would normally call rest on this vacation we read of in today’s Gospel. The huge crowd of people they seem to be trying to escape from get to the deserted place on foot before Jesus and the Apostles get there in their boat.

Now, where in a bit of a dilemma here. Since Jesus is God, He knows all things, and knows that He and the Apostles wouldn’t get away from that big crowd. So didn’t Jesus lie then to the Apostles when He said they would get rest?

Not at all. Actually, the Apostles got more real rest that day than any one of us could have got, even if we were given a week on the beach in Hawaii. The last sentence tells us why: because Jesus began to teach them many things that day in the desert.

And if we want true rest and recreation in life, we will find it by sitting at the feet of Jesus the Good Shepherd and learning the many things Jesus has to teach us.

Look at Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want
In verdant pastures He gives me repose
Near restful waters He leads me;
He refreshes my soul.

The more we allow the Good Shepherd to lead us, the more rest we will get in life, the more rest we will get out of Sunday, out of sleeping, out of our vacationing. The reverse is true also: the less we know and follow the Good Shepherd, the less rest we will get, no matter how much vacation time we are given.

You know, the Good Shepherd doesn’t work alone either: Jesus has a team of Shepherds working together under Him to help the sheep of His. As Jeremiah says in the first reading, (God) will appoint shepherds [plural] for (the sheep), who will shepherd them so they need no longer fear and tremble, and none shall be lost.

We would do well to know and follow the Shepherds God has put over us human beings. Who are these other Shepherds?

First, God gives us a Shepherd named Reason: our brains. The gift of Reason, the laws of logic, the laws of science are all there to shepherd us. If we are shepherded by Reason in life, and not just by our baser passions and feelings, we’ll certainly arrive at some restful green pastures. Unfortunately, logic is no longer required learning in school, and now we have a many people who can’t reason logically.

Through reason also we can come to know the second great shepherd God gives all humans: the natural law which God has written on our hearts. The natural law is a very misunderstood and misused concept today. The natural law teaches us to cherish and defend the life we have been given, it teaches us the meaning of sexuality, the duty to educate our offspring, the duty to seek the truth and to live with others in society. These are laws no government or culture impose on us from without, they are laws found within our very being. And if we come to know and to abide by the natural law, we will find rest for our souls.

And finally on the natural level, God gives to every human being a conscience, Shepherd number Three, to help one choose the good and reject the evil.

God gives all men and women those three natural shepherds to guide them. But God wants to give everyone a few other super-natural shepherds that will help guide us even more. God has given us His Word in the Bible to Shepherd and guide us us. He’s given us the revelation of the Ten Commandments to know with greater certainty the natural law.

He’s given us the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Pope and the Bishops in union with Him, to shepherd us and help us form our consciences correctly. He’s given us the Priesthood and the Sacraments to keep us strong in faith hope and love.

And finally, God has poured the Holy Spirit into our hearts with His seven gifts.

And over all these Shepherds is the Good Shepherd, Jesus our friend, who walks beside us and carries us when we can walk no more. Jesus and the team of Shepherds under Him are there to bring rest to our souls, every moment of our life, if only we allow ourselves to be led by them.

May this Eucharist allow us to hear the voice of Jesus say to us come away by yourselves with me . . . . and rest awhile, . . . in Green pastures, beside restful waters.

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