July 18, 2021: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Associate Pastor’s Corner
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
It might seem that we have all been in a deserted place, a place of rest cooped up in our own homes during the pandemic lockdowns. Perhaps you thought that it would be a kind of retreat experience, a good time to do some spiritual reading, to pray more, to be more intentional about your spiritual life. But I know that for me, despite the isolation of lockdown, I found it harder to do these things precisely because I was still at home, I was not really in a deserted place; all the distractions of the internet, chores, the brothers, were still present. And of course, for many of us work did not cease, but rather was transformed in a new and stressful way through endless soul-crushing Zoom meetings, masking, and the other added burdens of dealing with the pandemic.
Jesus sent out his apostles on a great preaching mission: to heal the sick, cast out demons, and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. But even this holy work, as good as it is, can lead to burnout and the need for true rest. This is why Jesus tells them (and us) to "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." As our pandemic experience shows us, it is very important that this time of rest be taken in a deserted place, a retreat, some place where the cacophony of activity of our daily lives can give way to the challenging silence of the desert, where the small quiet voice of God can be heard.
When was the last time you made a spiritual retreat? When was the last time you went to a deserted place without cell service, where the loudest sound was the wind? Just as the pandemic required many things to protect our health, so it has also necessitated serious spiritual steps to protect our spiritual health, and one key element of that for all of us is the physical experience of going to a deserted place.
As you make plans for summer travel, now is a great time to include a day, or even just half a day, of planned retreat. God out into the wilderness. Pick a short scripture passage to be your touchstone, to help you to return to God when your mind wanders. Rest. And let the Good Shepherd speak to you.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil;
for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
- Fr. Christopher