Mass of Sixteenth Sunday of the Year
Sunday, 19 July, 2015
St. Joseph’s Church, 8.30am
My dear friends,
We are told in the gospel reading that on this occasion the apostles had no time to eat. Parents can identify with that; so can many others such as doctors, nurses and clergy.
Once a man went to see a friend of his who was a professor at a well-known university. As they sat chatting in the professor’s office, they were continually interrupted by students who came knocking at the door, seeking the professor’s advice about something or other. Each time the professor rose from his chair, went to the door and dealt with the student’s request. Eventually the visitor asked the professor “How do you manage to get any work done with so many interruptions?” “At first, I used to resent the interruptions to my work. But one day I suddenly realised that the interruptions were my work,” the professor replied.
He could have locked himself away and devoted his time to his own private work. In that way he would have had a more comfortable life. But being the unselfish and generous person that he was, he couldn’t do that. Instead he made his work consist in being available to his students. It was no surprise that he was greatly loved by his students. And it was no coincidence that he was one of the happiest and most fulfilled professors on the campus.
Unselfishness is never easy. Yet at certain times it’s easier than at others. It’s easier when we are able to plan our good deeds; when the deed is of our own choosing, and we happen to be in the mood, and it causes us the minimum inconvenience and disruption. At other times unselfishness can be particularly difficult – when the deed is not of our own choosing, when we don’t feel in the mood, and when it is sprung on us at an awkward moment. In such cases we have to forget ourselves and set aside our feelings and our plans. A real sacrifice is involved. An act of kindness may be best judged not so much by its importance but by the disruption it causes in the life of the doer. It’s a true test of our level of kindness when we put aside our own plans to help another person.
Jesus too had to cope with interruptions. He was in such demand at times that he and his apostles scarcely had time to eat. However, at one point he decided that enough was enough and took the apostles off to a quiet place for a break. They had just come back from a Mission. He saw they needed a rest so he decided to take them away to a secluded spot. The carers too needed to be cared for.
However, things did not work out as planned. The people followed them. Instead of getting annoyed we are told that Jesus took pity on them. He saw that they were leaderless. Caring is seldom easy. Some of us are willing to care a little provided it does not cost us too much. To care as parents do may be closer to the real thing. They have to respond all the time and many times have to get out of bed at night to attend to needs. All of us are capable of caring and the need for caring people is great. Neglect is widespread in our society. There are many people in our world who are like sheep without a shepherd. When we care we are disposing ourselves to live the gospel.
A lot of good can come out of interruptions. They can prevent us from becoming totally preoccupied with ourselves. Selfishness can be a form of imprisonment. Love can set us free, especially if it is of the kind taught by Jesus Christ. Helder Camara says:
Accept surprises that upset your plans and shatter your dreams, give a completely new turn to your day and – who knows? – maybe even to your life. It’s not by choice that many things happen. Leave God the freedom to weave the pattern of your days.
+Liam S. MacDaid
19 July 2015