16 Sunday of the Year B
Ger 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Seeing the apostles busy themselves with working and teaching until they were exhausted, Jesus told them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). Then, he and the apostles got into a boat by themselves and rowed it to a deserted place.
To maintain a sense of balance in life, Jesus taught the apostles the necessity of rest. The book of Genesis tells us God created the world in six days and God bless the seventh day and sanctify that day, because he rested on that day (Gen 2:3). When Jesus rose on the first day of the week, Christianity set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of Saturday to rest, to worship and to give thanks to God.
Did we ever feel empty inside ourselves even when we are busy with daily activity, and living in the midst of our family members and friends? If so, who could fill that emptiness in our lives? As Jesus advised the apostles to go to a quiet place to rest, we, clergy, religious and the laity should seek a quiet place to rest, to stop talking and working for a while, to be alone with God in prayer and to listen to his voice. God often speaks to us in silence. Only in silence, can we find it easy to listen to God’s word and his voice. Only in silence can we find out if Jeremiah’s words of warning in the first Reading of today should apply to us (Ger 23:1-6).
When on earth, Jesus taught the apostles the necessity of work, and he prayed asking God the Father to sanctify them and their work in the whole Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel. The book of Genesis tells us after Adam and Eve had sinned, God ordered them to labor for food. In our world and society we live, we need to work in order to support our family and ourselves and build up our society. However, if we always work and consider work as the end, then we shall be drawn into materialism. Marxism considers man as an instrument of production, and evaluates man according to his quota of production. In some industrial societies, some people have to work on Sunday as required by their employers. That makes people boxed in working hours in office, store and factory. In that case, Christians should find time to rest on a weekday instead in order to spend time with God, with family and for ourselves. To work too much and all the time can make people lose a sense of balance and direction. They do not have time for themselves, for family and God. They do not have time to think about why they were born into this world, where they stand and what they have to do with their lives.
Rest includes vacation and pilgrimage. Christians can make the word of God come alive by making a vacation/pilgrimage to the Holy Land to trace Jesus’ footsteps on earth. Catholics can strengthen Catholic identity by visiting the Vatican, the capital of the Church. Catholics also can restore faith in God’s healing power by going to Lourdes to pray and observe pilgrims express their faith in their prayers for healing. Before going on a vacation/pilgrimage, making peace with God in the sacrament of penance should be in the mind of a devout Catholic.
During the trip, Sunday worship must be in the schedule of vacation also. In thanksgiving to parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren should make arrangement for parents and grandparents to go on vacations/pilgrimages. A certain priest once acted as a tour guide and chaplain for a group of Vietnamese tourists said to the group that wine would be offered free of charge at a certain restaurant. Realizing that Vietnamese women, especially poor women often worked hard to serve the family and seldom or tasted wine, the priest encouraged them to try some for enjoyment. He said Jesus himself blessed the water, turning it into wine for guests at the wedding at Cana to continue enjoyment (Jn 2:1-11). Having heard that, some women cheered hurrah for the idea.
To restore energy is to stop from work so that people can rest. Rest including prayer and worship is necessary so that people can refresh body, mind, spirit and soul. On Sundays and holy days of obligation, we come to church to offer the sacrifice of the mass and to listen to God’s words. We reflect on how the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus, his death and resurrection has influenced our lives and our actions. The mass on Sunday must be the center of our lives. That means we are busy all week with works at home, in the office, in the factory. Each week we spend about one hour with God at mass to worship and pray publicly in church and to share our faith with others. At the end of the week, we come to church again to be nourished with the word of God and the Eucharist and to be supported by one another’s faith. At the end of another week when we run out of energy, we come back to church again to refresh ourselves spiritually.
In his apostolic letter to the whole world signed May 31, 1998, Pope John Paul II reminded us: “Sunday is the day of the Lord”. God created the universe in six days and he rested one day. “Sunday is the day of Christ”, the day of the resurrection, the day of joy. The Holy Father reaffirmed missing mass on Sunday without a good cause is still a grave sin. “Sunday is also the day of the Church”. The Church has duty to have the Sunday sanctified by reminding the faithful to go to church for public worship, prayer and rest.
When Jesus and his apostles took a boat to a quiet place and rest, many people knew about it and they went ahead of them. When Jesus saw the crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6:34). In a mission land, many priests have to cover so much work and so much time on the road that they do not have time to rest. So today, we ask God to send more shepherds to lead the flock (Ger 23:4) and more missionaries - religious and laity - to work in the mission land along with the clergy in a team.
Prayer for energy to do God’s work:
Oh Lord Jesus, you taught the apostles
about the necessity of rest after days of hard work.
We ask you to sanctify our work
and teach us how to find time to rest
so that our body and soul can be relaxed
and to pray to you
so that our soul may be at peace. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong