YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.” (Mark 6:31-32)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“Workers inspecting the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge uncovered a Cold War-era trove of basic provisions that were stockpiled amid fears of a nuclear attack. The stash, discovered in a vault under an entrance ramp, included water drums, canisters of calorie- packed crackers, paper blankets, medical supplies and drugs that were used to treat shock. The estimated 352,000 Civil Defense All- Purpose Survival Crackers are apparently still intact. The metal water drums, each labeled ‘reuse as a commode,’ did not fare as well; they’re now empty. Fallout shelters were common during the 1950″, but most were dismantled. Many of the cardboard boxes discovered last week in the bridge vault were ink-stamped with two especially significant years in cold-war history: 1957, when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban missile crisis seemed to bring the world to the precipice of nuclear destruction.” (Associated Press, March 21, 2006) Today’s world seems more unstable than it was a few generations ago when bomb shelters were fortified with supplies against enemy attack.
Additionally, today’s adversary is less well- defined than in former days. Also, we know what it is to take a direct hit from those who wish our destruction. Insecurity seems more rampant now than when our parents and grandparents stockpiled supplies under the Brooklyn Bridge. And so we ask ourselves: Is there any way we can actually experience the security for which we so yearn? Is there any true rest to be found in this tempestuous world of ours?
In the gospel passage we hear today, we find Jesus and his disciples barraged by the demands of the crowd. Recognizing that his disciples are stressed and exhausted, “Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.” (Mark 6:31-32) We know further that, once rested and refreshed, Jesus and the disciples returned to meet the needs of the great crowd that had gathered. We, too, need to find escape from the demands of life, allowing ourselves to experience the refreshment that Jesus offers. And in the rest he provides, we also find that sense of security that the world can never provide.
While an anxious world stockpiles weapons and hordes material goods, the security that Jesus offers is found, paradoxically, in a surrendering of ourselves into his loving yet mysterious care. Some years back now, Pastor Stan Key of the Loudonville Community Church addressed this very topic, and I share his words with you: “I don’t like row boats. In rowing, you have to turn your back toward your destination. The only thing you can see clearly is where you’ve been! I prefer a canoe. Here I feel in control. I can see ahead and plot my course. No, I don’t like row boats. But in the Bible, faith is much more like a row boat than a canoe. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, he is in the boat with you. In fact, he is the captain! His hands are on the tiller. He is there in the stern of the boat directing the little ship where he wants it to go. He knows these waters well. And his vision is perfect.
“What a beautiful picture of faith. As I back my way forward, I may not be able to see the path ahead, but I can see the calm face of Christ gazing intently forward. Though I cannot see the future, he can. I can see the nail-pierced hands that hold firmly to the tiller. He has proven his love for me. He will not allow this boat to crash on the rocks or sink in the depths. And I can see where we’ve been. The wake of my little boat reminds me that Jesus’ track record as pilot is such that with him at the tiller my future is secure.
“Friends, is Christ in the boat with you? Are his hands on the tiller? Then row with all your might. Give yourself fully to the task at hand. No ship under his direction has ever sunk! Each one has reached its destination. Whatever you do, don’t put down your oars and twist your body trying to peer ahead and plot your own course. Just row! Just look into his eyes and you will realize that your future is literally in his hands.”