Sunday, July 22, 2012


Hope you can enjoy a day of rest...

   Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson 
went on a camping trip.
As they lay down for the night, Holmes said:
“Watson, look up into the sky 
and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”

"And what does that tell you, Watson?"

it tells me that there are millions of galaxies

and potentially billions of planets.
it tells me that God is great
and that we are small and insignificant.
it tells me that we will have 
a beautiful day tomorrow.
What does it tell you, Holmes?”
“It tells me, my dear Watson, 
that somebody has stolen our tent.”

I spent this past week 
“camping,” after a fashion,
serving as the chaplain to 70 teenaged campers
and the staff at Camp Guggenheim.
It wasn’t exactly vacation:
I offered daily Mass, heard confessions,
led prayer, helped with workshops,
and took part in all the many 
summer camp activities
which kept me up well past my usual bedtime.
But it was a refreshing change of pace, nonetheless,
that gave me the opportunity
to climb a mountain, get out in my kayak,
eat a few more ice cream cones 
than I probably should,
and even stop to look up 
and marvel at the stars.

Coming back from these days—paradoxically—
both a little more sleepy and a little more relaxed than usual,
I smiled widely to come across the following reflection yesterday morning:

Modern life is lived at high tension;
its pace is intense and nerves get frayed.  
Whatever it costs,
we must learn how to stop, when we need to,
and draw a quiet breath.…
[W]e must still learn how to relax…

In order to acquire this art,
we must learn particularly how to take advantage
of the little opportunities life has to offer
and become children at heart again.
We must not live at such an intensive, hustling pace
that we no longer have time to…have time.
To be relaxed makes one accessible to others.…

We must learn, or re-learn, to have time.
Our Lord himself did not want his apostles
to live in a state of perpetual tension.
He urged them to “come away into a quiet place”:
“rest a little”, he said to them
on days after they had finished their apostolic missions.  
In the wilderness and in solitude,
he revealed to them the best of himself and his message.…

We stand in need of rest;
rest in the ordinary sense of the word,
and also rest in God.  
We must find a place for him in the bustle of the day;
a place for private prayer, for slow and meditative reading.
We need this “oxygen.”
No luxury this; it is one of our vital necessities.…
In the midst of work,
we must keep our hearts open to God.
It helps so much to keep things in their proper proportion
if we keep a window open to heaven.…

We need to get our breath back.
That is why the Church is so insistent
on Sunday being kept as a holy day;
a day for public worship, certainly,
but also a day of rest.…
We must stop,
like the [mountain] climber who has reached a high peak,
to take breath for a moment, admire the view,
fill our lungs with fresh air and go on to the next peak.…
Do not let us neglect to fix our gaze on the sky
until we can see the stars there.
We make much better headway here on earth
when we have a sense of direction
and move forward with a firm step on solid ground.
Looking at the heavens is the form of relaxation
we can least dispense with
if we want to keep things in their perspective
and make the world a better place to live.  (Christian Life Day by Day)*

Those words are so apropos today!
Incredibly, they were written by 
Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens of Belgium
all the way back in 1961—
a time to which we very well 
might look back now 
as a far simpler one…

During these last several days,
our hearts—like Christ’s—have been moved with pity
at news of fatal car accidents and damaging storms
here in the North Country,
and the senseless shooting in Colorado that tore apart
what should have been an enjoyable evening at the movies.
Things can seem completely run amok—
people running about like sheep without a shepherd.
How crucial for us to remember
that Christ Jesus came preaching peace—
peace to those both far and near!
We need to stay in touch with that peace.
We need to re-learn how to relax—
not just because we want to be rested when we get back to work,
but because “to be relaxed makes one accessible to others,”
and accessible to God above all else.

On these clear summer nights,
let’s all take some time to step out and look up at the stars,
catching our breath and—even for just a moment—
resting in the God who made them.

*The entire book is available online here;  
these passages are excerpted from chapter 27, "Learning to Relax," which begins on page 95.

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