Since this is Father’s Day, I find myself thinking about my Dad and the lessons he taught me. It wasn’t hard to decide the most important of them: “Do what your Mother tells you!”
And she always tells me “Dear, you have to tell the parishioners where you went when you go away for a weekend.”
I said “What on earth for? We have two priests here.”
“Because I don’t want to hear any complaints,” my mother replied!
Her advice was good, and not just because it avoids complaints. It’s good because my absences can help us talk about the Christian attitude to travel and holidays.
This is a good time for that, since in our second reading St. Paul says whether we are at home or away, we seek to please the Lord.
(Of course his overall message is not about travelling—the Apostle is talking about the trip from earth to Heaven—but his words lead us to a very simple lesson as summer approaches. Whether we are at home or away we must continue to live the Christian life.)
It’s tempting to see our holidays as total freedom—no obligations, including Sunday Mass—except you can’t go on holiday from something so central to our existence. Some of us have tried taking holidays from exercise, healthy eating, and disciplined sleep, which is nothing but a losing formula.
Pope Benedict was speaking to priests when he said rest, too, is pastoral work. He quotes the words of Jesus "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (Mk 6: 31). The Pope even says we priests need to find and to have the humility, the courage to rest.
All of us can benefit from his wisdom if we understand that it means vacations, restful Sundays, and even daily breaks are part of the healthy human existence that God wills.
We need, wherever possible, not only to find rest in our vacations but also renewal. Vacations can be a time for a period of daily prayer as a family that may be difficult in ordinary circumstances. This may be a time to say the Rosary after supper because—for once—all the kids are at the table and none of them has a soccer practice. Depending where you take a holiday, you may be able to attend daily Mass—especially if there’s a parish nearby where Mass is later in the morning or in the evening.
Reading is an important part of holidays for many people, including me. I was really shocked by an article in The Globe and Mail recently. The headline was “I Have Forgotten How to Read.” It wasn’t by someone with a head injury or other ailment, but a piece by an author who had finally recognized that his lifestyle and the impact of the internet had slowly robbed him of the pleasure of curling up for a few hours with a good book.
Having the right book with you on a vacation is a key part to rediscovering the joys of reading. Having the right spiritual book can help reignite our faith during our vacation from all the usual distractions of life. There may be many parishioners—judging from sales in our little book shop, and loans from our library—who have never read a spiritual book. If you’re one of those I invite you to check out the books in gift shop and the library today. If you don’t see something that catches your interest, just ask me, and I will suggest something you will truly enjoy beside a lake or on a plane.
Whenever possible we should look for blessings when we travel—new friends, new ideas, new knowledge. And that brings us back to my recent travels. In less than two weeks I was in three dioceses; and in each of them I was reminded that our parish exists within a communion of churches; we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
When we holiday outside of Vancouver we get a small taste of this as we discover that things are done differently elsewhere—sometimes better, sometimes worse—but always in the great communion of the Catholic Church. Parishioners come back with ideas, and sometimes even with a sense of relief! But we are always strengthened to know that our local community is but a part of the great Church of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks to us about the kingdom of God. In another place he tells us that the kingdom of God is among us—right here, right at Christ the Redeemer parish. But today he reminds us that the kingdom also thrives and flourishes on a grand scale, offering shade and shelter to all people.
Everything we do, from work to play, is part of our human and spiritual growth, and part of our contribution to building up the Kingdom of God on earth.
And certainly our labours for a better world are a key aspect of this. Every so often you’ll hear in the media about “anti-abortion” groups. While there may be such groups, I’ve never really met them. Pro-life groups and pro-life people—including those who support today’s second collection—are promoting the culture of life.
Our goal must be greater than ending abortion. As our Prayer for Reverence for Life shows, we praise God for life at every stage, and commit ourselves to its defense.
Few things are more important to the Kingdom than the family, and on Father’s Day we should note that a Kingdom needs citizens; without the family, and the important work of fathers, God’s plan for the world could never succeed.
So whether we are at home, or away, let us make it our aim to please God in all things, and to build a kingdom of truth, justice and love.
Some of the ideas in this homily made their way to the Sunday bulletin the following week.