16th Sunday - homily
When I was growing up, my family and I would go down to the beach every August. We were able to use a house of a friend of my Dad’s in Bethany Beach for two weeks. It was the highlight of every summer! When school finished in June, we couldn’t wait to get to the beach. During the days, we went to the beach and enjoyed time in the ocean or went to the pool. At night, we played board games – lots of board games! – or went to the boardwalk or something fun. It was such a great time! It was good, quiet, family time. Of course, there were a few disagreements here and there, maybe some arguments; I didn’t have anything to do with them…ok, so I did. Overall, though, I look back on those vacations with such fond memories because they were some of our best moments as a family.
In today’s Gospel, our Lord invites the disciples to get away and rest: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”. For us, this can be an invitation to make a retreat which is something that we should all do. But, it can also apply to vacations. Pope Benedict, who we should all be praying for now as he recovers from surgery for his broken wrist, gave us some very good vacation advice recently: “We must set aside time in life for God, to open our life to God with a thought, a meditation, a small prayer, and not to forget Sunday is the day of the Lord”. I would like to offer a few suggestions on how we can make time for God on our vacations..how to make Christ involved in our vacations.
First, make a quiet, family vacation. I know it’s hard, but it is possible. It is very fruitful to spend time as a family and try to limit the use of cell phones, iPods, internet, TV, etc. It is so good to just have fun together, talk, and pray together as a family. We really can have an experience of God through our family; kids especially experience God the Father through their fathers and mothers. Second, go to Mass on Sunday on vacation as a family. Some of you are here today on vacation, so you get this point. We can’t take a vacation from God; we can’t take a vacation from Sunday Mass. Being on vacation is not an excuse to miss Sunday Mass. What a strong statement it makes to children when their parents plan ahead to make sure that they will be able to get to Mass, and that they all go, no matter where they are. It makes the statement that the Sunday obligation is most important and non-negotiable.
Also, if you have the chance, hit a daily Mass. What an excellent experience for anyone, but especially on vacation. Most people who have attended Mass during the week enjoy it more than Sunday Mass – it’s shorter, there are no collections, and there’s less singing! Seriously, it is more intimate and less distracting. It is a powerful experience with the Eucharist which is even more impactful on vacation, especially for kids. Also, if you go to a different city or country and go to Mass, then you experience the universality of the Church – the Mass is the same wherever you go. Again, this is a powerful experience for all of us, especially young people. What a great statement it makes to kids about the importance of the Eucharist!
Another suggestion is to pray together. Pray at the start of the trip for a safe trip and pray at different times during the trip. Praying the rosary is such a great family prayer! If you can’t pray a whole rosary, just pray a few decades together. It is highly recommended for families to pray the rosary together – the family that prays together, stays together. Also, you can read Scripture together, talk about the saints, or talk about our faith. It is so important to make time for God on vacations as a family and as individuals.
We all seek rest and peace when we go away on vacation. We need to make Christ a part of our vacations for us to find that peace. The second reading tells us that Christ is our peace. Only in Christ do we find peace and rest on vacation.
Finally, I will be going on vacation this week…I’m getting excited with all this talk about vacation and will heed my own advice. I will be going to the beach with a family who are dear friends. The highlight will be what we do every day in the house for about 15 minutes: Mass. If you’ve ever had the experience of vacationing with a priest and participating in a Mass that he celebrates in the beach house or hotel room or lodge, then you know it is the best! It is the best part of the vacation because it brings the Eucharist into your vacation. Jesus will be in our beach house! It will be the best moment of rest and peace for us this week. May all of us include Christ on our vacations. May we all find rest in Him who is our peace.