16th Sunday In Ordinary Time

It is the task of children, not of the mighty to destroy. In the world and in the Church today, there seems to be lots of children among grown-ups, who go round pulling down bridges that keep people together. They are after dividing people and keeping them apart. They provoke and indulge in conflicts and wars. War not only kills but also scatters. When will we learn and realize that the real test of power is not our capacity to make war, but to make peace? Few people can be happy these days unless they hate some person or group. The irrational hostility that some people vent upon one another is nothing but the projection of self-hate, and self-hate is born of empty life. Some store up grievances for so many years that hearts secretly are repeating those words in The Merchant of Venice: "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him." It is to this world divided by conflicts, wars, hatred and grudges that we Catholics are sent to heal and build bridges.

The Scriptures today urge us to become bridge-builders between people. One of the tasks which faced the prophets in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem was to rebuild a shattered and scattered society. So God spoke through Jeremiah to the leaders: "You have scattered my sheep and driven them away, but I myself will gather them again." (Jer.23:2). St. Paul also was concerned with building a new society in which both Jews and Gentiles would find peace because Christ "announced the good news of peace to you who were far off and to those who were near." (Eph. 2:13). When the heart of Jesus went out to the crowds who were "like sheep without a shepherd" (Mk 6:34) he was bridging the gap of alienation between the poor peasants of Galilee and the religious leaders who never cared for them.

More than two thousand years have rolled by, since Christ went round building bridges. But still the peoples of the world remain divided and hostile. Increasing inhumanity makes countless thousands mourn. Pope John Paul II chose "Build Bridges" as his theme for one of his Masses in the Philippines. At the end of the Mass, the Pope made this commitment on behalf of everyone present: "We commit ourselves," said he, "to build bridges between all peoples, between the young and the old, people of different races, different nations, between the rich and the poor, between children and their families, workers and the unemployed and between all religions, churches and nations."

Why do we have a day of rest? Why do we not work on Sunday? How do we rest? The Sabbath is not intended to be a day of idleness or vegetation. We gather for worship as one. That is central and important; but it is not the only reason for Sunday, a Day of Rest. We rest because we need to recreate. Notice that much of our so-called 'recreation' is really wreck-creation. That is to say our play is drug or alcohol induced and we go at it with a fury and frenetic pace that leaves us exhausted but not renewed. We need to recreate - to re-create the good that God has done for us. The Scriptural understanding of Sabbath is justice +giving. We recognize our covenant with God. We give to others (justice) as God has given to us. Notice that in the Gospel Jesus took the disciples away to a deserted place to 'rest'; but what resulted was a teaching. "Jesus taught the people about many things," says the writer. Jesus taught them about re-building, healing, repairing, and renewing. That is also why we have Sunday rest - we need to learn how to recreate.

We need to recommit to that bridge-building today. Civic leaders, church leaders, and all people of good will need to be the presence and power of Jesus: building and healing. It is a difficult and challenging task. It is never easy. We must be prepared to be rejected and ridiculed as Jeremiah was or killed as Jesus was. But we must also realize that the world is getting crowded. We now have more than 6,281,671,980 souls crowding onto the planet. It's overwhelming. Today 30 percent of the world does not have enough water, and if we continue, it will become 50 percent in 2025. That is not sustainable. Jesus not only pitied the crowd, he began to teach them what they needed to know and do to solve and heal and build. In the final analysis, then, humanity has only two choices - either universal destruction or universal sisterhood and brotherhood.

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