14th Sunday Year A - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2008

There was a book doing the rounds forty years ago called Prayers of Life by Michael Quoist.  There is one point that the author made that has stuck with me over the forty years since then.  He said that God didn’t make a mistake when making each day of only 24 hours duration and each week of only 7 days.  Quoist was addressing then, back in the 60s, a malaise that has worsened over the intervening years – the feeling that there is never enough time – never enough time to do what we feel we should or what we would like to do.  The time we have is already too full, and life is too busy.

Quoist made the point that, since God is perfectly aware, not only of our human limitations, but also of how many hours there are in each day and how many days in each week, God would never ask us to do what there isn’t enough time for.  If there isn’t time, God is not asking it.  So, if not God, who?

Somehow or other, our culture has canonised busyness.  We feel burdened by what we have to do, and burdened by the thought of all that we haven’t done – what we haven’t had time or energy to do.  We all moan that life is too busy, too hectic.  The illusion is that being busy seems to be virtuous, and not to be busy seems to be a bit lax.  We feel important when we can say we’re busy.  Lots of things we do aren’t really necessary – they only feel necessary.  They are only necessary if we choose to be as mad as most other people – if we fall for the advertisers’ spiel that, to be anyone, we have to possess this, to travel there, to dress this way, etc. Is it time to be counter-cultural?

Some things, certainly, need to be done, and some of those things can seem real burdens.  But what makes something seem a burden?  I think it is when we would prefer to be doing something else.  The remedy for that is to learn to be totally present to whatever it is we’re doing.  I remember the story of a woman who made beautiful tapestries.  When asked the secret of her skill, she replied: “When I weave, I weave”.  When the mind is totally focussed on the now, tasks are not burdens.  When I weave, I weave.  When I listen, I listen.  When I walk, I walk.  When I work (whatever it is I’m doing), I’m doing it.  I give it my whole attention.  If we slowed down enough to be present to what we are already doing at any single moment, our minds wouldn’t be constantly drawn away from that present moment by the desires of what we’re told, or what we tell ourselves, we should be doing.  And tasks would not be burdens.

All that calls for discipline, certainly, but a discipline that need not be stressful.  There is all the time in the world for what matters, for what God wants.  But we need to take time out to discover it and to convince ourselves.  The catch is that, to wake up to our busyness, we need time to step back from it – and we feel that there isn’t time to do that.  It’s not true.  We have all the time we need to take time out to get life in perspective, to reflect, to pray.  If we think we haven’t, who is calling the tune?

As Jesus says in today’s Gospel: Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest….  He didn’t say: Come to me and I will make you busy! On the contrary: Learn from me… My burden is light.