Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 22, 2018)

Last Sunday we heard Jesus sending out the twelve on their first missionary journey. Today, we hear of their return from ministry. This is the only time in mark’s gospel that the term “apostle” appears, referring to the twelve.

Jesus compassionately reads the situation. He does not encourage them to do more or to do better. In his compassionate wisdom, he knows that they need time to rest and to relax.

I think that Jesus would add a third r to our secular notion of R&R. Rest and relaxation are absolutely necessary, but so is a third R: reflection -- to determine where we are, where we are going. Jesus guides his apostles toward a quiet place.

It turns out to be not so quiet, so he takes over the teaching and allows the twelve to rest. The three R’s can be delayed, but never omitted. After all, Jesus promised refreshment for the tired: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily burdened; I will refresh you.”

You are disciples. Many - no, most - of you minister to the community. Often, when you do not name what you are doing as ministry you minister to an elderly parent or lonely relative, - listening to oft’ repeated stories, adjusting to slowness of gait. You minister to a needy child - taking the time to play, to answer a hundred questions. You minister to a hurting friend by your presence. You minister to a sick neighbor by shopping, preparing a meal. Besides all that, you work at keeping yourself and your household going.

When the boat crunches up on the sand on the far side of the lake, Jesus, without complaint, ministers to the people who interrupted his plan. The Twelve are not mentioned. Likely, Jesus sent them off for rest, relaxation, and reflection on the conversation they had while crossing the four miles on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus has something to say to you today. You, too, need to take time for the 3 R’s. Rest, relax, and reflect. Deliberate rest and relaxation are essential for healthy living. Reflection is essential for establishing a balance between work and R&R.

Jesus did not push the twelve beyond their limits, nor does he push you. He may be leading you by posing some questions:

  • Where am I on the continuum of work and the three R’s? Extremes are easy to reach. Extreme work leads to burnout. Extreme rest leads to rust. Extreme introspection leads to scrupulosity or spiritual self-centeredness. The alternative extreme leads to being a workaholic. There will always be something to do or some “reason” to do little or nothing. Balance is the challenge.

  • What is the quality of my rest? Am I renewed after rest/relaxation? Does my rest usually make me feel good about returning to activity? Downtime is not “one size fits all.” It is relative to where one is in life at any given time. Once again, we need balance.

  • How can I allow Jesus to minister to me? Do I need more interior, prayer to discern god’s will? Rote prayer can become a regimen of “busy work” that actually avoids honest conversation with our Lord.
Summer provides weather for relaxation and the suspension and slowdown of many church ministries. For active parishioners who are weary, summer provides a needed break from ministry. For not-so-active parishioners, it provides a time for reflection on choices for a fresh start in September.

We need to meet Jesus in the quiet place before we meet him in the market place.

In Eucharist we meet our Lord. Let’s receive him and follow him into both ministry and into the three R’s.