Sunday, July 19, 2015

Homily for 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 19, 2015
Mark 6: 30-24
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.

“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught” (Mark 6: 30).

The commentators observe that this is the only time that Mark refers to the 12 as “apostles” rather than as disciples.  On all other occasions they’re with Jesus as learners, as disciples, of the ways of God, of God’s love for men and women, of God’s relationship with us.  But here they’re returning from the mission on which Jesus “sent them out two by two” (6:7), as we heard last Sunday.  An apostle is precisely “one who has been sent.”

Christ sending out his disciples (James Tissot)
They were sent in Jesus’ name to do what he does:  to preach repentance, to heal, to drive out demons (6:7-13).  Now they return to tell Jesus what they’ve done, to render their accounts.  The apostle, one who has been sent, is accountable to the one who sends him, must represent the sender, must do what he was sent to do, say what he was sent to say.  The apostle can also be called an ambassador, which Paul does in 2 Corinthians (5:20).

Thus, a diplomat, e.g. John Kerry, carries messages and conducts negotiations in his country’s name, reflects the official policies of his government.  The apostles have spoken and acted for Jesus, and all who bear the name of apostle, all who carry out an apostolic ministry, likewise must be faithful to the message and the ministry of Jesus:  preachers, teachers, catechists; Christian writers, journalists, bloggers, commentators; whoever claims to be evangelizing, conveying the Gospel—for we have been sent by Jesus to preach, teach, catechize, evangelize in his name.  The apostle isn’t free to speak his own opinion and attribute it to Jesus, as the country’s 2d-most-famous Baptist did last week in the matter of homosexual “marriage.”[1]

When the 12 return to Jesus, he attempts to take them aside for some rest.  Yes, even apostles need to rest, need downtime, need vacations.  Comes a time when we even need to retire!  (I’m sure retirement wasn’t an issue for the 12 or many of their 1st-century successors; life spans were so much shorter then even if you weren’t being persecuted.)  We have a tendency to feel guilty if we even take a nap.  Maybe we feel less guilty now that we know the Pope takes a nap.

But you know the adage about all work and no play—no unwinding, no using different sets of brain cells, no recharging our batteries.  An archer must unstring his bow when he’s not using it, or the bowstring gradually loses its tension, becomes weak and, you might say, flabby.  And we need to rest:  get good sleep on a regular basis, take short breaks during the day, enjoy the weekend (or at least part of it), read for relaxation, practice a hobby, and get a few days off now and then.

But we rest or take a break “together with Jesus.”  Do you think Jesus meant just to take the 12 for a picnic and a day at the beach?  (There will be a picnic, indeed, a most unusual one, as we’ll hear next Sunday.)  I would guess that Jesus meant to have the 12 probe their experience, reflect on what they’d said and done, what problems they’d encountered, what the people had been like.  From what we know of the 12’s behavior in the rest of Mark, he’d probably have found out that they hadn’t prayed much or reflected critically, and he’d have pushed them in those areas.

Likewise, our downtime has to include time spent alone with Jesus, checking on our relationship with him and on our motivations and aspirations; on our interactions with others; on how our ministries are going and why, if we’re still active.  We have our daily practices for part of that—meditation, formal and informal prayer, reflections on the Scriptures (homiletic and otherwise), our retreat, and (I hope) some spiritual direction—we’re never on vacation from these even when away for a day or a week from community or from our regular routines.

You know all that.  You haven’t persevered thru 50, 60, 70 years of religious life by accident but by “gathering together with Jesus” as a community and privately.  You’ve spent a lot of quiet, restful time with him, and you know how that has energized your lives and put your ministries and your experience in perspective.  And in these mostly more quiet days that you have now at St. Theresa’s, I’m sure you’re growing still closer to Jesus.  All of which enables you still to be apostles—to one another, to your families, to your former students, and for some of you to your present students or other people with whom you’re active (to whom you’re sent as an apostle).

So, if you’re now completely retired, enjoy this time you have with Jesus—and with your sisters.  Rest, but not from prayer and sisterly concern.  If you’re still active, get your due rest, to recharge and to keep your life in proper balance with Jesus.

God bless you!

      [1] I figure the most famous Baptist is Billy Graham; he’s not the one I’m talking about.

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