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Homily: Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

            Most of us consider summer a wonderful time of the year. Many of us plan our summers around vacation. A vacation means travel. Or it might involve sitting in a cabin in the woods somewhere. Many would say that vacation is an essential part of life.

            Much has been made of the fact that Pope Francis doesn’t seem to take much vacation. His predecessors always retreated from the hot Roman summers at Castel Gandolfo. Francis has chosen to remain in Rome. He does cut back on his summer schedule. Is he giving us a bad example? Didn’t Jesus say that his disciples needed to get away to a deserted place and rest awhile?

            We need to tear apart this little story to get a better understanding. Jesus didn’t say you need a little vacation when his apostles came back from the work of ministry. No, he said let’s go to a deserted place. Let us go to a desert place to be specific. He wanted to go to a place that wasn’t filled with distractions. He had more things he wanted to teach them.

            Another thing that we notice is that Jesus was not rigid about the disciples having rest. When the crowd kept pursuing his little band, he didn’t tell the people to go away. He didn’t say keep paddling the boat boys until we can get some space. No, he took pity on the crowd. He ministered to them. In the end, he performs one of his greatest miracles by feeding the people with loaves and fishes. He didn’t look at the need for rest as an absolute. Sometimes responsibilities call on us to push a little harder. We could probably ask any mother who must get up in the middle of the night to tend to a child about going beyond what is expected.

            Plato had an interesting way of looking at how we spend time in our life. He said there are three activities we have in life; work, play and leisure. Work is one of those tasks that we must do in life in order to support ourselves. We all should be productive members of society. If we are lucky, we can say that we enjoy what we do. Unfortunately, most people would probably say they work because they must, in order to earn a living. But parents might say, “I need to work to provide for my children, so they have a roof over their head and food on the table. I engage in work out of love for those closest to me so that their life might be better.”

            The second activity Plato talks about is play. Play might be what we like to do on vacation. We might go to theme park. We go somewhere to escape our normal life. We might also attend a sporting event. In our society many say “work hard, play hard” as if one activity offsets the other. We might ask this morning whether as modern people we are more worn out after our play than we were before. Is play spontaneous or is it another thing on our to do list? If so, is that the way to rejuvenate ourselves? Maybe there is something else.

            Leisure is what Plato feels is the preeminent activity. We probably equate leisure and play, but when we do so it is a miscalculation. When we engage in true leisure, we have a sense of refreshment. Leisure is usually about expanding the mind and the heart. We might read a book. We can go for a hike in the woods. Leisure can be going on retreat. Maybe it is doing an art project. Leisure is something that expands the soul and uplifts the spirit.

            We could say that leisure isn’t a one size fits all activity. Leisure is different for each of us. I was involved in a conversation with a group of friends the other day that is typical for this time of year. Our talk worked its way around to what people had done this summer. One family had gone off to some distant islands on a cruise. Another person talked about how they had played golf each day on different courses around the country. Some others talked about where they had gone scuba diving. The implication was that the further you traveled, the more stimulating the activity, the better.

            Pope Francis, if he weren’t recovering from surgery this summer, would probably be ministering to people from all over the world at the Vatican. Somehow, he seems like a happy fellow despite all his work. He might not play all that much. But he tries to imitate our Lord when it comes to leisure. Jesus grabbed a bit of respite here and there. He took delight in simple activities. He recouped his energy with his friends. Plato lived modestly as well. He never traveled outside Greece, but he seemed to know how to navigate life and how to rejuvenate himself. He was extremely productive and thoughtful. Each of us might need a different amount of play time, but we all need leisure time if we are going to be satisfied in life.

            What is it that expands our minds and uplifts our mood? Is it feeding others as Jesus did? Is it prayer? Is it learning something new? We give thanks for whatever leisure we enjoy. God has given us the gift of life. May we find a balance between play, work and leisure. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have I ever thought about the difference between play and leisure? Why is it important to see the difference?
  2. What is a leisure time activity I enjoy? Do I do it enough?


Dear Parishioners,

COVID numbers are rising again. This is a troubling thing. Hospitalization and death are also climbing. It is no coincidence that the numbers are going up in places that have low inoculation rates.

Vaccinations are very effective. Sometimes it is asked if they are morally acceptable? The Catholic Church would say the answer is unequivocally yes. Yes, there are some bishops who might cast dispersions on the church’s acceptance of vaccines, but they are a small minority. Sometimes even bishops can have weird opinions about things believe it or not. There is no direct link between the development of vaccines and embryonic stem cell research. The magisterium of the Catholic Church has spoken clearly about this.

It is sad that in our country where anyone can walk into a pharmacy and get a free shot, people are choosing not to do so. Whereas, in a place like Cuba or in many African countries people who would love to have an inoculation and cannot obtain one because of logistics and poverty.

I personally would hate to go back to locking things down, not having Mass and being socially distant from one another. The time has come to set politics aside and look out for each other. As a faith leader I would encourage everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you can unless you have some overriding health concern.

May Our Lady and All the Angels and Saints watch over you this week.

Fr. Mark