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Sunday 21 July 2024 Trinity 8, Sixteenth in Ordinary time, Proper 11

Finding God in a quiet place

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-18; Mark 6:30-34

By Simon South

Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Parish of St Anthony of Padua, Rye

Context: a small coastal congregation, predominantly middle class, many retired but with a small number of pre-school age families and a few teenagers occasionally in attendance

Aim: to encourage parishioners to recognise the invitation of the Lord to find peace amidst the busyness of daily life

At the heart of our faith as Christians is the relationship we have with God through Jesus, the call to that special innocent intimacy that is found between a child and parent, the very intimacy that God longs for us to share with him.

I remember with special fondness the times in the past when I had gone to the school to pick my daughters up after they had been away from home on an extended school trip. Standing there waiting for the coach to come along, and as the coach parked, and the doors opened, the children would come spilling out and rushing to find mum or dad in fits of loud excitement. And after the quick hugs, came the excited chatter of the children as they would share a minute-by-minute account of what they had done, what they had seen and who had said what to who.

Today’s Gospel captures for me, that same intimacy, excitement, and innocent joy as Mark tells us how ‘the Apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught’. Such a joy-filled image, bringing everything they had seen and done while away from their rabbi, their Lord, their confident and their brother.

As I reflected on this scene, I found myself thinking about my relationship with our Lord. Doesn’t Jesus tell us that it is those who are childlike who will enter the kingdom, who will find God and who will approach Jesus. Do I allow myself to approach Jesus with childlike innocence, excitement and joy? Do I share and encourage this closeness to God with my children and my grandchildren, building a prayer life on this beautiful relationship?

And then after the reunion, as all good parents will tell you, after this excitement, is the slowing down, the need to find calm and quiet. A chance to refocus the children, to feed them, to allow them the time to draw breath and to rest. And this is what the Lord sees in the Apostles. The need to find those moments of physical and spiritual refreshment. To replace that which has been given out during their ministering to the people on their journeys.

And it’s in this image that we see the challenges so many of us live out in our daily lives, us and our families, in our oh so busy lives today. Have you noticed how every minute of every day there is an expectation, a demand almost, that we be ‘busy’ - doing or contributing something – being productive. Images bombard us 24/7, emails set us the next thing on our constant ‘to do’ list. Social media goads us into believing we are not living as good and full a life as our 600+ so called ‘friends’. From the moment our alarms go off in the morning until the moment we finally get to lay our heads on the pillow again, our time is mapped out with stuff! We have become addicted to being busy!

Even on days off, we are still bombarded with emails, texts, WhatsApp and all the other ways we feel compelled to communicate. And all this while trying to get our sons and daughters, our grandchildren to football matches, after-school clubs, swimming, or their next social engagement. When do we find time to head off to our ‘lonely place’ and simply sit in the presence of our Lord?

But Jesus understands this – as we have read today, Jesus knows what we really need, what our family really needs – moments of peace in the presence of the Lord – in our quiet place.

Mark tells us, that not only does Jesus know and understands our predicament – but as He looks on us ‘He takes pity on us,’ because we are ‘like sheep without a shepherd, searching for meaning and purpose, but looking in the wrong places.

In all our frantic rushing, searching, looking, Jesus remains our true moment of peace, our chance to breath, our chance to put the chaos of life into perspective. As St Paul says, Jesus ‘is the peace between us’ – the peace between himself and us and between each member of our parish family.

I would like to leave you with a thought to carry with you. We are shortly coming together at the Lord’s table. We will receive the body of Christ together and make our prayers of thanksgiving. We will then head back out into the world. As we journey through the week ahead, can you find a few moments each day to find that quiet place in your hearts to find peace and in that peace, allowing yourself to be with Jesus as a child, getting off the bus of your day and running to greet Him, sharing all you have done and seen and embracing the inner child? Because Jesus is waiting to receive that child in his outstretched arms.

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