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7/17/2012 2:31:00 PM
Sabbath sets the rhythm of our lives

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34
Our lives have a rhythm. In many ways, the cadence of our lives is set by our employment. The year has a work/rest rhythm set by the timing of our vacations. In the United States, the natural refrain on Fridays is “TGIF.”  Friday is the beginning of a two-day respite from our most familiar work schedule. We have been told that the rhythm is important for our physical and mental health.

In the Book of Genesis, we discover that God’s work and God’s rest have similar rhythms. “On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done” (Gn 2:2). This is the day of rest essential for our spiritual health.

Unfortunately, too often we think of rest as idleness. God’s rest is not inactivity and neither should ours be. Instead it is God reflecting on his work. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, refers to God’s “contemplative gaze” on the seventh day as the time when God enjoys what he has already created.

Today’s Gospel takes us to the time when the disciples of Jesus were establishing their own rhythm of apostleship. Their relationship with Jesus was new. He had called them (three times, in fact) and they were following him. These disciples had been sent out on their first missionary journey. Now they wanted to tell the Lord that they were truly committed. They wanted to tell Jesus “all they had done and taught”—to reflect with the Lord. They had been very busy.  Now, the Lord invited them to take a rest.

The Gospel reminds us that the Sabbath sets a rhythm for Christian life. From Apostolic times, the first day of the week began to shape the life for Christ’s disciples (cf. 1 Cor 16:2). Today’s Gospel teaches us about the wisdom and necessity of finding a quiet place to rest and reflect. The rhythm of the week prompts us to gather up the events of the week, to review them in the light of God’s goodness and to thank the Lord for his many gifts. The Sabbath, then, takes on a special meaning.

The Jerusalem Bible translation of the First Reading refers to God as “the Lord our integrity.” That is a good description of God’s place within our lives. He is the One who holds our doing and our being together. He helps us make sense of what might otherwise seem without meaning. Our Sabbath rest and our prayer life help us form ourselves in God’s image and achieve the inner integrity that gives us peace.

The search for integrity is not new. The Gospel speaks about the hurried activity of the apostles. They, too, knew times when their activities were frenzied, and those who entered and exited were so many they had little time to address their own spiritual and physical needs. And so they went away with the Lord.

On Sunday we join with the Lord and one another in the midst of our Sabbath rest, to commemorate the suffering, resurrection and coming to glory of the Lord. We hear God’s Word and share the Eucharist, and give thanks to God who has given us new hope through the Resurrection of Christ. 

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