BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa


HOMILY: Many of us today complain about having daily stressful routine. We go out early and come back late; we work from Sunday to Sunday; we hustle to make ends meet; we carry the burdens of so many other people, especially here in Africa where the extended family system is a norm. Apart from physical stress many of us grapple with emotional, economic and psychological stress. Hans Selye, a world-renowned researcher on modern stress describes stress as “the wear and tear caused by life.”

A lecturer was invited to give lecture on stress management. At the beginning of the lecture he raised a glass of water and asked his listeners: “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?” Some said, 20gm, others said it should be about 100gm and others reasoned it is 200gm. He said to them, “the weight of the glass of water is not as important as how long you hold it.” He added, “if I hold it for a minute, it is okay, but when I hold it for an hour I will begin to have pains in my arm. If I hold it for a whole day, I will need to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.” He concluded, “No matter how light the weight is, the longer I hold it the heavier it will become.” He recommended, “The best way to hold the glass for a long time is to raise the glass for some time, put it down for a while before holding it up again.” This recommendation is meant for all of us who hang our burdens on our necks and wherever we go.
This frenetic routine of life is about the same every day. It is not surprising that many of us today are suffering from stress and are in distress as a result of too much work and commitments. The body is demanding for rest and there seem to be little or no time to listen or respond adequately to this demand. We just keep pushing through, even when the body, mind and soul seek for refreshment.

The weekend and particularly, Sundays are days for rest, but many of us are so busy 24/7 that neither Sundays nor weekdays make any difference. Personally, I have made a decision to take at least a one-day break during the week and I hope to follow that up.
Jesus had sent the seventy-two disciples out to go and preach and they came back with stories of success. They were so busy during their pastoral work that they had no time even to eat. Jesus, the compassionate shepherd invited them to come to a lonely place where they could be by themselves and take some rest and eat. This was because he cared so much for their well-being. The gesture of Jesus towards his disciples proclaims a message that says: IN AS MUCH AS YOU TAKE CARE OF OTHERS, DO NOT FORGET TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. That is to say even if you render services to people for as much as 23 hours in a day, have at least a non-negotiable hour of rest and refreshment for yourself. Jesus invites us also to take care of ourselves, (our minds, body, spirit and soul) so as to be able to serve others much better. For example Sundays and annual vacations are set apart for rest. More over, it is for the sake of the revival of the spirit that people go for retreats where they can be alone with their God and come back more refreshed physically and spiritually.

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most popular psalm and the content of the psalm is very powerful because it gives one the re-assurance of God’s love and care. Sometimes, when I read this psalm, the picture of John the beloved disciple comes to my mind, especially the time when he was just so relaxed on the breast of Jesus during the last supper. The presence of Jesus was so satisfying to him that he thought about nothing else. The last supper was a moment when the other disciples were tensed and worried that their master was about to leave them, but for John, the celebration of being together was the most important thing at that moment. This Psalm gives us the re-assurance that in the midst of troubles, when we walk in the shadow of the valley of death, the Lord is present with us and even when the world abandons us and when people judge us harshly and when we think that all hope is gone. Sometimes when we feel too lonely and afraid, we say in our discouragement, “no one cares for me.”

In moments of distress, we need to feel the presence of leaders who are supportive. We need the presence of compassionate shepherds and leaders who care for us and not those who are so self-centred and who starve the flock entrusted to them.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us about God who is the compassionate shepherd and as one who passionately cares for his sheep. The prophet explains how much the Lord cares that even when the earthly shepherds, leaders or parents abandon their flock or children, the Lord gathers the abandoned and showers them with his love and care. In moments when we are drained by stress and feel neglected in life, Jesus walks in as the invisible guest that strengthens and consoles us. When nobody cares for us that the Lord cares best for us. St. Anselm of Canterbury offers a wise advice to us who are constantly stressed up. He says, “Come now, little man! Flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put aside your laborious pursuits. For a little while, give your time to God, and rest in him for a little while. Enter into the chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God, and having barred the door of your chamber, seek him.”

16th Sunday of the Year/ Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 22; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34.


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