You must come away
16th Sunday July 22nd
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, "You must come away to some lonely place and rest for a while," for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.
But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them.
So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Do you have enough time for yourself? There are two extreme answers. One is, ‘I haven’t a minute from morning till night.’ The other is, ‘I have all day long with nothing to do.’ You may find yourself somewhere in between.
Too much to do
During the economic boom many worked long and stressful hours: there were deadlines to be met and business opportunities that could not be missed. Workers who were constantly available to their companies had a better guarantee of holding their jobs and gaining promotion. Children noticed how scarce their parents’ time became. Elderly people in residential care often found that family visits became less frequent and more hurried. Stress could continue into free time. Those who worked hard played hard and spent heavily to make up for the effort and discipline of being high earners. Even up to now, there are people under pressure to live like this.
Too little to do
In the economic downturn vast numbers of people across the world are unemployed. Many of them are young and full of energy. Each day may be a long day when there is no satisfying work to do. There is the indignity of having to depend on the state and on others for an income. There is the frustration of having talents with no opportunity to use them, and the constant pre-occupation with the shortage of money.
He took pity on them
I invite you to mull over the Gospel story above; it may guide you in the use of your time, whether you have too much or too little of it. If there is one word that sums up the attitude of Jesus in every situation in which he finds himself, it is ‘mercy.’ In this story he has pity for his companions who are so busy they have no time even to eat. They need time to be by themselves and to rest. The mercy he feels, impels him to action: on his instructions they get in the boat and set off for a quiet place. We can imagine the exasperation of the apostles when they see the crowd of people who have taken over their quiet place and have stolen their free time… Jesus’ response to this unexpected turn of events is once again, mercy.
He feels sorry for the crowd, because they are like sheep without a shepherd. They need someone to give direction to their lives. Jesus talks to them at length, assuring them that they are in the care of an ever loving God; he encourages them to live their lives to the full and to face the future with hope. He then demonstrates that care of God by multiplying the loaves and fishes and giving them all they want to eat before sending them to their homes. Jesus sends the apostles back in the boat and goes off into the hills on his own to pray. At the end of a long and hectic day, Jesus finds time to be by himself and to be with his Father in prayer.
The saints had time
Frances Ward was born in Abbeyleix in 1810. She was the first person to make profession to Catherine McAuley in the newly founded Sisters of Mercy. She was a woman of extraordinary energy. She founded convents in Carlow, Naas, Wexford and Westport. At the age of thirty-three she went to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania with seven other sisters. During the next forty-one years she made about a hundred foundations across the United States – convents, schools, hospitals, orphanages – before she died at the age of seventy-four. One thing struck her about the lives of the saints that she had read:
‘It is extraordinary how much time the saints had, and how little time the majority of Christians have. The saints had time for God and time for the work they had to do, and time to do countless acts of kindness for others.’
Time for ourselves, for others and for God
Whether we have too much to do or too little, Jesus shows us a way to make good use of our time. It is wise to make time for ourselves, for others and for God. Mercy towards others comes first. This mercy ensures that we are not totally preoccupied with our own problems; it stirs us to think of others. Yet we need time for ourselves and time to rest. As we make time for God in prayer, we may learn, bit by bit, to keep a wise balance in the way we live. We remember that we are not God and cannot do everything; we show mercy to others and we show mercy also to our fragile selves.
Prayer: From Psalm 146
My soul, give praise to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord all my days,
make music to my God while I live.
It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is God who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord who sets prisoners free,
the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down.