Sixteenth Sunday – “Come away and rest for a while”

“You must come away all by yourselves and rest for a while”

Today’s Gospel provides a welcome of sorts to summer, an invitation to “rest for a while”. At another level, it encourages us to reflect on how we can be “all by ourselves”, drawing on the image of the Church as a “built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5).

Christian faith is not meant to be lived in isolation.  God chose to call people to share his life “not as individuals without any bond between them, by rather [by making] them into a people whom might serve him and live in holiness” (LG 9). Christian living is inspired by the love of God made visible in Christ and seeks to bring that love to a fast-changing world.  That is not the task of isolated individuals.  Bringing the Good News to the world is not a question of communicating information but of sharing a way of life.

St Paul asked how people could come to believe in him of whom they have never heard.  And how are they to hear without a preacher (Rom 10:14)? One might put it this way: How are people to believe unless they are drawn by a community in which the message is heard and preached, lived and celebrated?

This is where and how all of us come to believe.  Faith is not an individual achievement; it is not something we could ever have worked out for ourselves.  It is a gift of God made visible in Christ and poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift that no human power could offer.  That gift is transmitted to us though parents, family, friends, priests, religious, teachers and the whole community that surrounds us and the generations that preceded us in the Body of Christ, united in the life and power of the Holy Spirit.

St Mark recalls how, after the apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught, Jesus immediately takes them aside to regroup and reflect.  He puts the spotlight not on their own efforts but on their sense of togetherness and participation in his own life.  The Gospels tell us elsewhere that whenever Jesus brought his apostles to a lonely place it was an invitation to pray.

As we take to ourselves the Gospel invitation to “rest for a while” during the summer months, we can reflect prayerfully and in thanksgiving for our efforts in the past year to “build a spiritual house”.  It can provide us with a welcome opportunity to rest from the “work of the Lord” and to be refreshed by the “Lord of the work”.

(cf. Bishop Donal Murray Let Love Speak, pp 101 – 102)