Jesus’ invitation extends to all

By | July 8, 2009

It’s not hard for us to relate to the Gospel for July 19. Jesus had sent the 12 Apostles out, two-by-two, to carry forth his work of healing, preaching and driving out demons in his name. And now they have returned, excited to tell their master all that they had accomplished, but also probably tired from their adventures.

Mark comments that “people were coming and going in great numbers and they had no opportunity to eat.” So Jesus invites them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

In the frenetic pace of our society we often feel that there is no time to stop. Between work, extra activities and volunteer efforts there is always something we need to do. Given the pace of each day, we can begin to see our personal value in terms of what we do, accomplish or earn. We can lose a sense of who we are or what is the center of our lives.

In the midst of our busy lives, Jesus’ invitation also extends to us to come away and rest awhile. During that time apart, we remember who and whose we are (an expression often used by Fr. Dan Felton). That is part of what we do when we participate in the Mass. As we listen to the Scriptures we hear again stories of God’s intervention in human history and the stories and sayings of Jesus. We hear words of comfort and challenge. We perform ritual actions that draw their power from real life and show us again how to live. We praise God for all that he has done and what he has given us. We extend signs of peace, ask God’s forgiveness, and offer gifts for the church and for the poor. As we eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation we remember again our union with one another and with God. We say “Amen” to that union and promise to be bread and wine in the world, giving of ourselves so that others may live. We are strengthened for this mission and are sent forth to live what we have just practiced.

But attending Mass is not enough. I’ve often heard people complain that the Mass isn’t prayerful enough and that the communal aspects of it hinder their “time with God.” And in a sense they are right, especially if the Mass is the only time they spend in prayer. Like the people in Jesus’ time we hunger for healing and peace. We hunger for time with God, even though we may not have recognized or named that hunger. Jesus’ invitation extends to each of us to also take time away from our activities each day, be it 15 minutes, an hour or more, to spend some quality time with God in quiet. Many people accept the invitation by going away on retreat.

Today’s psalm speaks of how God revives our drooping spirits as he leads us to green pastures near still waters. In accepting Christ’s invitation to “come away and rest awhile” we experience the peace of such pastures. In that time away we rediscover our center and remember who and whose we are.

 

Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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