Looking out my office window onto Winthrop Square (AKA the Training Field), I am always surprised to see how many tourists are walking by on the Freedom Trail. Many are families, and the children appear eager to get further up the hill to the Bunker Hill Monument! Inevitably on Sunday mornings, we welcome many visitors at Masses and folks join us for coffee afterwards. The summer spirit of vacationing seems to be in the air!
Of course many of us, including me, do plan trips and vacations during the summer. Among friends, a common question seems to be, “Are you going to get away this summer?” Often it seems, the answer is affirmative, and if the travel is not coming in the summer, it is planned soon after.
One member of the parish is planning a trip to a few countries in Europe these days and we were talking about all there is to see in some of those spots. This reminded me of what a bad tourist I am. I don’t like to sightsee. I find museums exhausting, and beautiful as ancient cathedrals and galleries might be, they make my head ache even before my feet. Maybe I have never been a very good tourist, and I know I am not one at this phase of my life.
However the idea of “getting away”, leaving that which is familiar and routine and changing one’s locus, even for a few days, is something else. I like that. I like the sounds, the sights, the smells, and the feel of a new place. I notice everything about a new place, from traffic patterns, radio stations, the taste of local water, the billboards, and the way everyone talks and interacts. The fact that it is different from where I live and breathe every day is refreshing and enjoyable – most of the time.
I guess I am amazed at the entire human enterprise. When we stay in one place for a long time, we are inclined to forget that there are lots of people in many other places, living and dying, just the way we are, yet in their own unique culture, language, voice, climate, and beat. Somehow, when I immerse myself in these other ways, I appreciate my own point of view in a fresh new way. If I allow it to happen, I can see entirely new and different ways to live and do things that never occurred to me. My point of view is broadened and my reference point is richer.
Travel and new experiences can really be occasions of Grace. We can be amazed by the grandeur and beauty, the starkness and struggle, the simplicity and ingenuity of others living differently than we live. In all of this, if we look deeply, we can see traces of Grace. God is present, loving, encouraging, forgiving, and delighting in the magnificence of all of His creation. So if for a few days, a week or two, you have a chance to join God and see a bit of all this wonder – go for it! Have a wonderful vacation this summer.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Martha and Mary are the focus of this weekend’s Gospel, which abounds with rich themes about hospitality, service, and finding the right balance between action and prayerful attention to the Lord.
Christians who are good stewards of their faith life realize that if they are too busy to enjoy peaceful, private time with the Lord, then something is out of balance in their spiritual lives. If we make time for Mass, but then carry on with our busy schedules without prayer, meditation and reflection, we are missing out. If we find ourselves anxious and harried by life’s routines, could it be a sign that something in our spiritual life needs some serious attention?