Deacon Kevin Gingras
July 18, 2021
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fear no more, security, saved, restful, refreshes, courage, goodness, kindness, peace, reconcile. These are the positive words that leapt out at me when reflecting on today’s readings.
It wasn’t all positive however, there was just a smidge of negative from Jeremiah:
Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.
Ok, so don’t be that person, and read even further:
You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I mean REALLY do NOT be that person! Jeremiah was calling out the Jews for their sins and towards a true conversion of heart. He was telling them not to lose hope. A fair and just king will be coming who will do what is right. Judah shall be saved. Jeremiah was prophesying about Jesus here. If only they knew this Jesus that was coming for them like the Jesus we know today!
Other than Jeremiah's stern warning at the beginning, however, even his message ended on a positive note. Then we move to the Psalm. How much more positive can we get! When I meditate on today’s Psalm it makes me want to go fly fishing and to me, well, that’s a positive for sure.
beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
I imagine myself fly fishing on a nice cool, calm river filled with trout. That would certainly refresh my soul right about now! Bring me peace, like a little retreat. We could all use a little peace.
Our reading from Ephesians tells us where that peace comes from - Jesus Christ. Jesus broke down the dividing wall of enmity - that dividing wall was also a physical wall in the Jewish Temple. It would separate the inner court from the outer court. If you were a Gentile you would break laws and be severely punished if you entered past that dividing wall into the inner court to worship, only the Jews were allowed there! All I can think of is Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That’s what Jesus did, not actually tearing down the physical wall in the temple but the spiritual division that was set up between the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that Jesus came to:
create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.
through him [meaning Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
In the Gospel the apostles had just gotten back from their first mission trip. They were probably out teaching messages very similar to that letter, that Jesus has come for all, not a select group. They were probably amazed at what they were able to accomplish, driving out demons, proclaiming the good news of Christ, and healings. They excitedly reported to Jesus all that they did and taught. Jesus clearly appreciated all their hard work and thought they deserved a bit of rest. Jesus wanted them to have repose beside restful waters if you will. Unfortunately for the Apostles I don’t think fly fishing had been invented yet.
Well, when we hear the rest of that Gospel from Mark we know that didn’t happen, they never get their rest. Instead, a vast crowd follows them and somehow arrives before Jesus and the Apostles at their destination. I’m not sure how the crowd knew where Jesus and crew were headed but somehow they knew. Then Jesus, being the good and perfect shepherd that he is:
His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Well, I guess some things are worth sacrificing your peace for. Jesus saw that this flock of people gathered to hear and learn from the master and that was worth that sacrifice.
What do we sacrifice our peace and rest for these days? Is it really worth the sacrifice? I was on my way to Bible Study the other night with my wife Allison and I was complaining to her about all these meetings I have at Church, and how busy I’ve been at work this week, how could I even take the time to have dinner after finishing up work. Bottom line - I was whining. Then at the Bible Study on Tuesday night I heard this Gospel. Basically, the Holy Spirit was whacking me upside the head, trying to move my heart with pity! Because of my human faults, I'm not automatically moved to pity, sometimes I need that nudge from the Holy Spirit. Well, I listened, I had all my meetings and even managed to have dinner too! Dinner was only McDonald's but that's ok, I like their french fries a lot! Ultimately, I didn’t really sacrifice too much for those meetings and in the end, it was well worth it.
Amongst all the sacrifices we make we also need to care for ourselves too. We have to find that balance. We need to take that time to rest awhile, perhaps in a deserted place - to do this, we need to put our electronics away, focusing on getting our hearts, souls, and minds back to focus on Jesus. He should be our center, take that time to put him back in the center if you’ve moved him off-center a bit for something else whether it be work, sports, school, games, whatever it may be. Our lives are busy and that business can emotionally and physically tire us out. We have to balance our activity with contemplation and spend some personal one on one time with the Lord. This time alone will help reinforce our spiritual connection to God.
"Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy - then we need an hour." - St. Francis deSales