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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Jun 16, 2024)

Summer is Here and You Had Better Make the Most of It!

Summer! It's a different kind of busyness.

On very few occasions, but perhaps more and more, I long for the idle life of those simple folk from by-gone ages who lived without watches and calendars. No endless series of events and commitments on the horizon; no tomorrows reaching into today and making demands of its precious time, requiring one to prepare or “make way” in a thousand and one manners. Better start thinking about that homily! The cruel calendar cries. Time to send that email asking for helpers! Stop gazing out your office window and ply your eyes to the to-do list, lest you let everyone down and ruin that couple’s wedding! 

Oh, to be able just “let the day come to us,” to worry not for the morrow, to let the sun’s path set the pace of the day, to be free of the inexorable march of mechanical minutes that mercilessly drive us onward and upward into the ever-unfolding future!

Perhaps as pastor I need to declare a day when, with the parish staff, we simply sit outside on the front steps of the parish center and watch the tumbleweeds (etc.) roll down Dayton Avenue, waiting for something to happen, indignant, but relieved, when nothing does. 

Summer, in theory, is supposed to be that time. That timeless time that makes no demands of us but is content to allow God’s children to unfurl like a day flower beneath the sun once it’s already high in the sky and abide until the mosquitos chase us into bed at night. 

Alas, there is no rest for the weary. At least once you have reached adulthood. As I am sure many of you are now experiencing, summer tends to be just a new kind of busyness. Busy with all the things we can’t do during the winter. Busy with all the projects you can’t tackle during the school year. Busy trying to keep the kids busy so they don’t loaf around the house like a swarm of grasshoppers who take no thought of tomorrow nor spread their wings to fly unless threatened repeatedly with a shoe. 

At the parish office, we do get to relax the schedule a bit. The end of the ministry year and cycle of programs. Less office hours. Fewer meetings. Summer Mass schedule. Then again, wedding season kicks off. Funerals seem to crop up like dandelions. And suddenly your associate decides to lead a mission trip to Peru with the cream of the parish’s youth for the rest of the month, leaving you high and dry with all the Masses and sick calls. 

Thankfully, your pastor is the kind of guy who has a hard time doing nothing. As nice as it sounds, it would in fact be a kind of purgatory for me to spend a whole day (or even an hour) on the doorstep of the Parish Center unable to accomplish anything useful or even to delete some “case closed” email correspondence. As a matter of fact, I take great delight in work, especially the variegated and redemptive work of a pastor, both in season and out. Our Lord Himself says, “we must do the work of God while it is still day.” Each summer, passing faster than the one before, teaches those who pay attention that truly “the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn 9:4), and that death may come for us far sooner than we think! Let us walk, therefore, and work as in the precious daylight of a June summer’s eve (cf. Rom 13:13).

So we can’t do nothing. But I do think we should let summer be a time in which we change gears a bit in order to learn how to simply “be”. Be in the moment, that is. Not living or working for the sake of getting on to the next thing (unless that be Heaven, in which our thoughts and conversation are already called to abide!). But content, and intent, on doing whatever we are called to do in the moment “with our whole being,” to use St. Paul’s phrase (Col 3:23). Perhaps, yes, like those yeoman farmers of yore who lived without smartphones or google calendars to constantly draw their attention to places and times other than their present one.  Or perhaps even a little like God, who simply IS without qualification. 

Whatever camps or trips or projects fill your calendars this summer, I challenge you to “learn the lesson” of those day lilies, or those fabled farmers, step away from our many calendar and clocks for a spell, and “abide” a bit more in God’s time, watching the world around us (summer included) pass away before our eyes while waiting for eternity to burst forth and embrace us forever.

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