THE IMPORTANCE OF “ORDINARY TIMES”
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Church’s calendar involves what is called “Ordinary Times”; a time set aside for rest and establishing those rhythms that sustain us as Christians—Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. This is very similar to what we read in the Gospel of this 16th Sunday in ordinary times, (Mark 6:30-34). It begins with the apostles recounting their successes from the mission Christ had sent them out to do. But looking at them, Christ saw exhaustion; a need to regroup and to refuel, to take in some fresh air of the spirit and so He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile.”
The Gospel of Mark makes at least nine references to Jesus taking time to withdraw, rest, and communion with His Father after a big ministry event before moving on to the next task at hand. Jesus knew that without His disciples taking out time to rest and communion with Him, they will not be able to have the strength to constantly meet the challenges ahead. This speaks directly to us today. In many ways, we have become addicted to doing things even to the extent that when we are not somehow engaged, we feel lost or even empty. Recent statistics show that the average American spends 72 hours a week maintaining job-related contact and work-related tasks, not including chores and everyday tasks at home. About 81% check their work email over the weekend and more than 59% check their work email while on vacation. About 6% checked their work email while either they or their spouse is in labor and another 6% checked their work email at a funeral. This same statistic also shows that, on average, more than 10 hours a day is spent by most of us looking at a screen in one form or another, with much of that time devoted to work-related topics. Unfortunately, Psychologists tell us that increased screen-time is related to increased reports of depression and stress; conditions that are related to increased risk for heart disease, obesity, depression, diabetes, accelerated aging, and even the formation of brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s. Bottom-line, our work-related busyness seems to be working us to an early grave.
So, when Christ invited His apostles to come away and rest awhile, he wanted them to know that they will only be able to do what they are assigned to do if they take time to rest in His presence. The same is true of us. It is only when we take the time to put down our phones, remove our thoughts from work and all the tasks we need to accomplish, and just rest in God’s presence that we are able to face the challenges of each day with a greater measure of strength. This is why our lives need to alternate between periods of busy work and periods of physical and spiritual renewal. Many have found it helpful to establish a rule of no phones, tablets, or screens during family meals so that the family can have time, each day, to thank God for His blessings and enjoy each other’s presence. Some have established regular routines of taking short walks each day with family members or alone with God, away from other distractions. Some others have established routines involving going to daily Masses (at least on some weekdays), attending weekly Sunday Masses, Tuesday Bible Classes, Wednesday night Marian devotions, and or attending monthly Eucharistic Adorations on 1st Sundays and Sacred Heart Devotions with Eucharistic Adoration on 1st Fridays of every month. These are powerful ways to take time to withdraw and rest in the Lord because, in these situations, we are worshiping and fellowshipping with the faith assembly as part of our encounter and restful experience with Jesus. Luckily, we have all these devotions here in our parish and the good Lord is waiting to meet with us.
Bottom-line, we need to find ways to rest with Jesus on a constant basis; to recharge our batteries, and to enjoy the things that God has put in our lives. Remember, it is the one who is able to work today and work tomorrow while preserving all that matters in life that wins. As St. Vincent De Paul cautions: “Be careful to preserve your health and the things that matter most. It is a trick of the devil, which he employs to deceive good souls, to incite them to do more than they are able, in order that they may no longer be able to do anything.” May the good Lord grant us the grace to take out time and be with Him!