Where do you go to rest in God’s love?

Father Tom Otto

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/July 22

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23:1-3,3-4,5,6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34

There’s a little detail that pops up over and over again in the four Gospels, almost like a golden thread that reappears throughout a beautiful tapestry. What is that little, easily overlooked detail? It is the fact that Our Lord frequently goes off to a deserted place to pray.

In this weekend’s Gospel we hear that He took His disciples and “they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” Our Lord models for us the importance of frequent encounters with God the Father’s love, a love which renews and refreshes us.

We all need a “deserted place” of our own, a place to take refuge in the presence and love of God the Father. Perhaps that place is your parish church, or an Adoration Chapel, or a prayer garden in your backyard. This should not only be a physical place, but also a “place” in our daily schedule. Time spent in prayer is never time wasted!

I’ve always remembered the way one retreat master put it to me while I was in seminary: “Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will never find time for prayer.” Talk about convicting!

So, where is your refuge, and when do you go (each day) to that place to rest in the Father’s love?

MOST DIFFICULT COMMANDMENT?

From the time of Moses and the Ten Commandments to the present, God has always called His people to rest. Ironically, one of God’s most basic requests of His people — that we take an entire day each week to rest and be rejuvenated — is the commandment that most people find most difficult.

As 21st century Americans we have the values of work and productivity deeply ingrained in us, which is a good thing in many ways. However, it makes it difficult to routinely enter into Christ’s invitation to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” We need to work in order to provide for ourselves and our families, but ultimately our life is not about how productive we are, but how deep our relationships with other persons are . . . beginning with Divine Persons (the Holy Trinity)!

It’s easy to fill our Sundays with work that we didn’t accomplish during the week, or projects around the house, but we are commanded to put those things down for a time to focus on worshipping God, receiving His love, and loving our families and friends. And in doing so, we find ourselves renewed and refreshed.

THE HEART OF IT ALL

Reflecting on our own lives and how well or poorly we rest is truly beautiful because it takes us to the heart of our faith.

The Catholic faith is ultimately not about following a set of rules or learning various doctrines, but it is about a relationship with a person — Jesus Christ. The rules and doctrines are important — essential, really — but are given to us for one purpose only: that we might come to know and love Him.

Our second reading this weekend sums it up beautifully in that little turn of phrase: “For He is our peace.”

Father Tom Otto is the parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception, Monmouth, and St. Patrick, Raritan. He also serves as a chaplain for the St. Augustine Newman Club at Monmouth College.

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