Crossing Over into God’s Territory
16th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 18, 2021
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”
In last week’s gospel, Jesus had sent the disciples out two by two to all the towns and villages (Mark 6:7-13). Now we find Jesus and his disciples crossing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Time and again we find Jesus crossing to the other side during his ministry. These crossings mark boundaries between different phases of Jesus' ministry.
Jesus and his disciples are crossing in order to search for a deserted place to rest and pray. In other words, they are looking for a kind of retreat or vacation for themselves. It is noteworthy that Jesus does not find what he's looking for. He has ministered to many crowds of people, and being fully human as well as fully God, he needs to rest and recharge his batteries just like the rest of us do. However, the people have figured out where he is going. In the gospels the disciples often do not know where Jesus is headed--but somehow these people do. Jesus, like us all at times, does not get the rest that he was looking for.
Have you ever had a longing to “cross to the other side”? Where is the “other side" in your life? To cross to the other side is to cross into God's territory. A search for rest--a search for a deserted place, a fun vacation, a good time with our friends--even sightseeing (especially after the COVID lockdowns!) – all these things are really a search for God. This is because all these things are an earthly way of trying to describe heaven. Heaven is the place where God lives, his home: and he wishes to invite us there.
Even on Earth all of us need to rest. All of us need to search for a deserted place to find God, and one way we do this is through prayer. Many of us lead such active lives--we are so busy. Hopefully, we can see Jesus in the people that we work with, live with, go to school with, minister to, or run into--but without prayer--my life will lack focus.
It is true that we can't always run off to a desert, a monastery, or hermitage in order to enter into communion with God--and it is encouraging that even Jesus and the disciples didn't always succeed in getting the rest they needed! A deserted place where we can simply “be” with God must be cultivated. One good place that we have here is the Adoration Chapel. Perhaps you have a room in your house, or you can close the door and pray without being disturbed. Perhaps you can go up to Mount Angel Abbey or a religious place. One can find God in nature. But the real "deserted place" lies in the heart. In fact, we don't have to go anywhere--Jesus is waiting for us in our heart. In our noisy, overactive, media-saturated world, Christ will always be found in the deserted places of the heart.