Come Away to a Quiet Place and Rest a Little.

The Memorial of Saint Paul Miki & Companions, Martyrs.

Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• I Kings 3: 4-13.
• Psalm 119: 9-14.
• Mark 6: 30-34.

The Third Class Feast of Saint Titus, Confessor & Bishop; and, the Commemoration of Saint Dorothy, Virgin & Martyr.

First three lessons from the common, fourth from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Ecclesiasticus 44: 16-27; 45: 3-20.
• Ecclesiasticus 44: 16, 20 (in place of the Gradual psalm).
• Psalm 111: 1-3.
• Luke 10: 1-9.

If a Mass for Saint Dorothy is offered, all from the common:

• Ecclesiasticus 51: 13-17.
• Psalm 45: 6, 5.
Veni, sponsa Christi….*
• Matthew 13: 44-52.

Cheesefare Saturday; the Memory of All Holy Ascetics; the Otdanije (Leave-Taking) of the Encounter; the Feast of Our Venerable Father Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Silvanus, Bishop of Emessa, & His Companions; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father & Confessor Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

First & third lessons from the triodion, second & fourth from the menaion,** according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:

• Romans 14: 19-23; 16: 25-27.
• Galatians 5: 22—6: 2.
• Matthew 6: 1-13.
• Matthew 11: 27-30.

8:39 AM 2/6/2016 — Many of the Gospel lessons that come our way in Ordinary Time, particularly in the first couple of weeks, can seem pedestrian and commonplace until we resolve to read them with prayerful recollection. The characterization given from the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany is one of Divine mystery; we were maneuvered by the liturgy of the Church to reflect on the Divine in Christ: His preexistence from all eternity, His fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, the mystical nature of His earthly conception and birth. The contrast of that with the Gospel lessons in the beginning of Ordinary Time would lead us to believe that the shift is changing dramatically from Who and What Jesus is to what it is He does: not so much Jesus being this or that, but Jesus doing this or that: all kinds of activity: preaching, traveling, curing. But then comes the one solitary verse that cures us from judging too rashly or over-simplifying things.
     Our Blessed Lord has been busy in the Gospel lessons we've been reading, a little too busy it seems: “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat” (Mark 6: 31 NABRE). How often have we felt just that way? My assumption is that very few of these people actually believed in our Lord. How could they? He's revealed precious little about Himself at this point. It reminds me of Henry VIII's wonderful line from Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons: “There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth and I'm their tiger; there's a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves.” I think there were a lot of those following our Lord in the early days of His ministry. Our Lord, in His human nature, needs a break; more to the point, the Apostles have just returned from the mission on which He sent them in last Thursday's lesson (cf. Mark 6: 7-13); so, He invites them to “Come away into a quiet place by yourselves, and rest a little” (v. 31 Knox). In spite of the level of activity that the necessity of the moment has imposed on Him, our Lord is not an activist; He's a contemplative. His activity is never allowed to displace His prayer. And the lesson is unmistakable: there is no competition between action and contemplation; and, if we perceive in our lives some tension between prayer and active duty, it's only because we've failed to understand either. If you haven't read it already, get your hands on a book called, The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard. It was a favorite of Pope Saint Pius X: a whole book dedicated to the thesis that your prayer life can't compete with your daily duty because it's your prayer life that gives meaning to everything you do.
     Of course, our Lord and His Apostles don't escape for long:

People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things (vs. 33-34 NABRE).

It's more than just Saint Mark listing the sequence of events; it's a statement of eternal truth. Think about it long enough and you'll realize it: everyone is looking for Jesus, even those who don't know that He's the one they're looking for, even those who don't know they're in fact looking for anything. The words of St. Augustine at the beginning of the Confessions may be the most truthful post-Biblical statement ever made: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee” (Conf., Book I, ch. 1). The human heart is made to seek and to love God. And God facilitates this encounter, for He, too, seeks out each one of us through countless graces; hence, the observation the Evangelist makes after our Blessed Lord is found: “…his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (v. 34 NABRE).
     When the Mother of God appeared at Fatima, she listed a whole catalog of atrocities committed against her Immaculate Heart; but, what did she ask us to do about them? She asked us to pray. She asked us to make reparation. That's what sets the Blue Army apart from every other organization in the Church: the Legion of Mary prays, but the Legion of Mary also holds bake sales; the Holy Name Society prays, but they also run blood drives and collect canned goods. What does the Blue Army do? It prays. Not that it's wrong to do anything more;—not that it's somehow less worthy to engage in apostolic activity for our Lord; far from it—but, someone in the Church needs to be focused exclusively on what our Blessed Lord Himself said was “the one thing necessary” (Luke 10: 42), and not just monks and nuns in cloisters. A lot of things are good, but only one thing is necessary.
     Let's take the Lord's example. He did a lot of good for a lot of people as these lessons just prior to Lent illustrate, but he always took time to pray; and, sometimes I don't wonder, whenever I read that passage from Luke wherein our Lord's visit to Martha and Mary is described, Jesus, in His Human Heart, looking back to these first months of his public life, had just a tinge of envy when He spoke those words to Martha: “Martha, Martha, how many cares and troubles thou hast! But only one thing is necessary; and Mary has chosen for herself the best part of all, that which shall never be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41-42 Knox).

* The Tract is non-Scriptural: "Come thou, spouse of Christ, recieve the crown which the Lord hath prepared for thee from everlasting: for whose love thou didst shed thy blood. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: there God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out, proceed properously, and reign."

** The lessons from the menaion are for the Holy Ascetics; there are no lessons for the other observances.