21 July 2012

REST – NOT AN OPTION BUT A COMMAND

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 6:30-34 (Jer 23:1-6 / Ps 23 / Eph 2:13-18)

As I write this homily, the weather lends itself very well with the focus of my reflection: rest.  Sometimes it is such a struggle to gather and organize my thoughts on this gloomy, cold, and rainy day.  The temptation to procrastinate is strong and my bed beckons to me with unusual warmth and softness.  My body whispers – no, shouts – with its every fiber: “Drop everything and rest!”

Resting – how many of us feel guilty to take it?  Resting – who among us over-indulge in it?  Resting – we all need it.

I remember one of my heart-to-heart conversations with Bp. Broderick Pabillo.  After pouring out my heart to him, the good bishop looked at me and said, “Bob, when was the last time you went away from the parish for a vacation?”  I couldn’t answer him right away.  He explained what he meant by “vacation” and I realized that he was referring to more than just a weekend or a week.  “We are entitled to a month-long vacation every year,” he said.  I knew that, of course, but I never give it much thought.  The truth is that after seventeen years in the ministry, never had I gone on sabbatical.

I don’t say it, but I tend to be in the opinion that a prolonged vacation is not only an expensive venture but also a useless waste of time.  I used to convince my self that even while going about the work of the ministry I can grab some days for resting without leaving the parish.  I was wrong because those days never came.  There was always some work to be done, some papers to write or sign, some people to talk to, some sacraments to administer, some sacramentals to perform, some homebound to visit, some wake to go to, some letters to read and answer, some funds to raise, some bills to pay, some meetings to prepare, preside over, and report about not only in the parish but in the vicariate and even in the archdiocese as well, some official functions to be present in, some repairs or renovations to be done, and some other hundred matters that need personal attention of the pastor himself.  Yes, there are simply so many “some” in a pastor’s life and ministry that some time for a real good rest is no time at all for him.  If he were not careful, the pastor could easily burnout just like anybody.  While “all work and no pray” leads a pastor out from the priesthood, so does “all work and no play” negatively affects his ministry even as he remains a priest.

Jesus gives us – clergy and lay – not only a mission to do but also an antidote to over fatigue and eventual burnout: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  After all, if the task of being a good shepherd and persevering as such form part of the message of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading today, one cannot be the shepherd that he should be without spending time attending to himself even as he attends to the needs of the people entrusted to his care.  For how can a shepherd lead his flock to restful waters if he himself does not know not only where to find those restful waters but how to rest as well?  Anyone who refuses to go to his own deserted place, his personal lonely place, his place of solitude and rest, cannot and should not even be allowed to lead others anywhere else.  For if he does, he would almost certainly lead them to the same place of his exhaustion and restlessness.

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” Jesus said to the apostles.  Whatever states in life we are in, how heavy or light the burdens of the tasks entrusted to us, whoever we are responsible to and for, Jesus says the same thing to us.  And notice that He says it not as invitation or a request.  He does not say, “Please come away.…” or “Could you kindly rest a while?”  He simply says, “Come away…rest a while.”  It is a command.  In fact, it is part of the task or mission He entrusts us with.  We must rest.  We must go in and out of our particular place of solitude every so often.  Jesus commands us: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  Do we obey Him on this just as we obey Him in all things we ought to do?

Whatever our deserted place is and whatever our way of resting be, it must be in perfect harmony with our identity as disciples of Jesus.  Another bishop, Archbp. Soc once told me when I was a younger priest, “Bob, you are a priest; everything in you should be priestly, even the forms of your entertainment must be always priestly.”  The same is true for you, too, my lay brethren.  You are Christians; everything in you should be Christ-like, even the forms of your entertainment must be Christ-like.

Are our deserted place, therefore, a place where Jesus Himself will not think twice going?  Is our way of relaxation something Jesus Himself can join us in?  Yes, resting is not optional for us to live not only healthy but also holy lives, so is Christ Jesus.  And when we share our deserted place with Jesus and keep our forms of relaxation Christ-like, we shall know true peace, for, as St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in the second reading today, “…He is our peace.”

Where is your deserted place?  What is your relaxation?  Who is your peace?

“Rest!” – that is not an option but a command.  “Rest in Jesus, always with Jesus!” – that, too, is a command, never an option.

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