YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: LET’S TAKE A BREAK!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A man, known for being a philanderer, was being romantic with his wife one day. He said: “Honey, next month will be our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Is there anything special for us?” The wife quickly replied: “Yes. I am going to take you to Africa. It’s a nice place for vacation and adventure.” The man was obviously delighted: “Really? That’s great! What a wonderful way to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary!” Then he asked again, “I’m just curious. What’s for our Golden Wedding Anniversary?” His wife answered: “Well, I will go back to Africa.” The man was confused, “Africa again?” “Yes,” the wife replied. “I have to go back to pick you up.” Taking vacation and some time off is necessary to maintain a healthy and productive life. This is the main lesson of the Gospel this Sunday. The Lord, sensing that the apostles were tired and exhausted after their initial mission, invited them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
We all need some time to rest, to take a vacation or some kind of relaxation. This is a legitimate human need. Jesus knows it. That is why, out of compassion for his disciples, he invited them to take a break.
But we must have a correct understanding of rest. During summer, many people go on vacation. But most of them return more tired and stressed: lack of sleep, fatigue, and physically and financially exhausted. This is not the rest that Jesus is talking about.
Rather, he invites us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). In other words, we need to take the rest that the apostles took: resting with the Lord. Jesus is the source of strength and peace that everyone needs. Taking vacation or resting without Jesus will just make us more stressed and tired.
In fact, Jesus is not only talking about resting or relaxation. He is really talking about being with him: “Come to me.” The most important reason for taking rest is not so much as being away from a stressful job or going someplace. Rather, it is to give us the opportunity to be with Jesus. That is precisely the meaning of our Sunday celebration. For Christians, Sunday, the first day of the week, is the Day of the Lord. There are two major reasons for this: first, because it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday is a little Easter. And second, it is also the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles on Pentecost. What the Sabbath is to the Jews, Sunday is for us Christians. But while the Jews strictly enforce the no-work discipline on Sabbath, Christians do not. We are just being encouraged to avoid work on Sunday. But if it is really necessary, then we can at times do some kind of work on Sunday, but with the clear understanding that it is the Day of the Lord. We are encouraged to take some rest on Sunday and avoid work so that we can have time to go to Mass and have the opportunity to focus our time and attention on the Lord, to be with Him and to be energized and inspired by His grace and peace.
Sadly, we see more and more people becoming stressed and anxious. The reason is not just that they do not have time to take a meaningful rest and vacation, but they also neglect the observance of Sunday as the Day of the Lord. They take all the days of the week for themselves and for their selfish interests and concerns. And they willfully neglect to give back to God what rightfully belongs to Him.
A poor man complained to God: “Lord, I am so poor. I have no house, nothing to wear and nothing to eat. Please help me.” God heard him and sent an angel to him. The angel gave him ten big apples. He told the man: “Here are ten apples. The first three apples, you are going to sell so that you have a place to stay. The second three apples, you will also sell so that you will have clothes to wear. And the third three apples you will eat. There is only one apple left. Do not touch it. Return it to God in thanksgiving for the graces you received.” The man did as the angel told him. He sold the six apples and he had some place to stay and some clothes. Then he ate the three others. There is one apple left. He knew it is for God. But it looked bigger, juicier and more delicious. So he ate it too.
There are seven days in a week. God gave six days to us. We can use these for ourselves. There is only one day for God, and that is Sunday. It is the Day of the Lord. But look what people do on Sunday. They still use it, not for God, but for themselves: shopping, outing, work, family, and friends. It is not Family Day, not Shopping Day nor Recreation Day. It is the Lord’s Day!
The best way to honor the Day of the Lord is through the celebration of the Eucharist. Here we encounter Jesus personally. When we are at wit’s end, not knowing what to do, Jesus instructs us with his word that gives us inspiration and guidance. When we are afraid of sickness and death, Jesus gives us his own Body and Blood for our strength and spiritual nourishment and assures us: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54). What a relief to be here in this Eucharistic celebration. It truly is our rest in the Lord that will give us the strength needed to face life’s big challenges. As a saying goes, “Seven days without God makes one weak.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City