Find Peace in Jesus
User's Guide to Sunday, July 19
Sunday, July 19, is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
This column was introduced when April and I were editors of the Register’s now-defunct sister publication, Faith & Family magazine. The column, about the meaning of Scripture and Sunday activities, stressed April’s specialties: She has a master’s degree in theology and is a master mom. In the years since, the column has changed, and April’s workload home-schooling nine children changed. Tom will now shoulder the column alone, with her consultation.
Jeremiah 23:1-16, Psalm 23:1-6, Ephesians 2:13-18, Mark 6:30-34
Appropriate in late July, today’s Gospel tells the story of two vacations: the apostles’ interrupted retreat and the crowds’ impromptu pilgrimage. They are both metaphors illustrating our need for rest — and where we can find it.
The first vacation was Christ’s idea. We learn that “[p]eople were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” Jesus, we learn, believes in time off: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
But then the people watching them leave put two and two together, guess where they are going and beat them to their retreat location. And that’s the second pilgrimage-vacation. They have come to discover that there is only one place peace and quiet can be found: at Christ’s side.
As the Letter to the Ephesians teaches, this is just as true for us. Jesus “broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh … thus establishing peace.” It concludes: “He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Peace is the point of the spiritual life, says the Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” And peace is a goal of the new covenant, as described in the first reading by Jeremiah: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them, so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.”
So if we live the Gospel covenant fully — if we live in the presence of God, seeking him in prayer and meeting him in the sacraments — then our Christian life will be like a vacation, in one sense: It will be a place of peace and rest for the soul.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.