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July, 14 2015

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Deacon Dave Shea, DMin

Jer 23:1-6 Mk 6:30-34

 

He had a demanding job—it was exciting and exhilarating. He loved being put into pressure-packed situations that would make his adrenaline gush. His career was everything he had ever hoped it would be. It wasn’t uncommon for him to work 60 or 70 hours a week. And he traveled a lot; a day or two at a time and often for more than a week. He loved his job! He was good at what he did and he made lots of money and he provided financial security for his family.

But despite the richness and fullness of his life, time was the one thing he didn’t have. There wasn’t enough of it to go around. When he was home, every minute was occupied—he tried to make up for all the time he was away. It seemed that he was constantly running a marathon, but it was a race he never finished. Years passed and then came that day when he looked at his children and wondered what had become of the infants and the toddlers; they had grown-up without him.

And he was growing tired; he frequently found himself exhausted and depleted. It was then that he’d confide in his wife and try to explain that there was nothing left of him—it was all gone, all used up, with nothing of himself to give to others.

Jesus had sent them off to teach, to preach, and to heal, just as he had done. It was their first missionary trip and they had done some incredible things. They returned to him exhilarated and excited; they wanted to share all they had seen and done. “Preaching, teaching, and healing are rewarding, but also draining.” They were exhausted; they needed a chance to catch their breath and spend time with Jesus. His turbulent life as healer and minister had become theirs. So Jesus took them away to rest: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

But working miracles had its price. They had become famous and everywhere they went people knew them. Privacy had become nonexistent and rest all but impossible. So the vast crowd set out ahead of them to reach the very spot that Jesus had chosen for their retreat. In an almost frenetic rush, they surround Jesus and his disciples on all sides and pressed in on them with all their needs—they were sick, they were sad, they were hungry and they wanted to be healed and fed. Jesus’ private space had been invaded; the disciples’ special quiet time with Jesus spoiled and their much-needed rest denied. “Jesus forgot all about vacation time,” about getting away, about being alone and resting. You could just hear the disciples muttering under their breath, “How can we get a break; how can we take care of others, take care of ourselves and our relationship with the Lord, if everyone wants a piece of us when there’s nothing left of us to give?”

We recently lost electricity at our home. It was in the middle of one of those “pop-up” thunderstorms and it was the last thing we expected. Suddenly, we were without TV, without computers—we were “electronically disconnected” and we sat there looking at each other. What were we going to do? After a few moments of feeling sorry for ourselves, we broke out the candles and the flashlights, dug out some board games we hadn’t played in years, and had a good old-fashion quiet evening. We were together; we even talked and had a good time. When the lights came on just a few hours later we were kind of disappointed. We were forced to find some quiet time, for rest, for just being together and . . . and it was great: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

Ask any older person; any middle-aged parent; anyone who is 50 or older, “What would you do differently if you had your life to live over?” And the answer you’d receive, above all other answers, is, “I wish I had spent more time with my family, with my friends, with the people I love.”  It was just a few weeks ago when I did the funeral vigil for one of our parishioners. When I had finished the service, I stood at the casket with the oldest son looking down on his father. He was sobbing and all he could say was, “I thought he’d be around for much longer; I regret not having spent more time with him. And now he’s gone.”

What has happened to us? More than half of us admit that we have too little time for our families; that the juggling act between job and family is our biggest struggle. Families with two-earner couples have even less time together—“when job, children and marriage all have to be taken care of, it’s the marriage that gets neglected.” We live in constant anticipation of tomorrow—we can hardly wait for the day to end, for the weekend, for summer vacation, for the kids to grow up, for retirement. We get upset at everything in our way—we switch checkout lines at Kroger, we switch back and forth between channels on the remote, we hurry our children. We race through life; we get through it. And in the end we sit exhausted with no time for quiet, no time for prayer and reflection, no time for just being with Jesus. Even when we do pray, the time pressure we so often feel gets in the way of being open to hear his voice. And we struggle with the tension between spending time with those we love and spending time with Jesus—“the tension of the need to get away from it all and our need to respond to the demands of love.”

Jesus understands this tension better than anyone. When the disciples returned from that first missionary trip, Jesus knew that they were tired, just as he was tired, and needed some time off to be with him, to rest, to be still, to listen and rejuvenate.

In our busyness, in our hurry, in our pressure-packed and stress-filled lives, schedule an appointment with Jesus this week—block-off some time to be with him even if it’s just a few minutes in between everything else and rediscover “our emptiness, our incompleteness, our yearning for his love.” 

“Come away to a deserted place and rest a while,” Jesus invited the disciples. That invitation still stands; it’s open to us. Jesus knows how tired we are and he pleads with us to sit down with him and be still and pray and listen and simply be with him. Do we have the time?

 

Resources and references:

Buetow, Harold A. All Things Made New. Staten Island: Alba House, 1996.

Siciliano, Jude, OP. First Impressions. www.preacherexchange.org  

Simpler Living Compassionate Life. Edited by Michael Schut. Denver: Living the Good News, 1999.

The Center for Liturgy. http://www.liturgy.slu.edu/

Wallace, James A. with Robert P. Waznak and Guerric DeBona. Lift Up Your Hearts, Homilies and             Reflections for the “B” Cycle. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2006.

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