By Father Woods
This article appeared last year, but is being repeated because we need this annual reminder in order to keep life in perspective.
Summer is supposed to conjure up images of rest, relaxation and vacation. The problem is that for many people rest makes them uncomfortable. They feel unproductive or even lazy. We give in to the “heresy of activity” – that my value as a person comes from how busy or in demand I am. Even vacations can become a race to see how many activities or experiences we can cram into the days away. We feel like we don’t get our money’s worth if we rest and relax on vacation. Perhaps resting around the house is even worse. We immediately feel guilty about all the chores we could be getting done. Some people are so committed to work and activity that they harangue their spouses, children and friends into endless movement. Any inactivity is ridiculed as “lazy”. Even leisure activities and sports can become all-consuming; they become a form of work.
While this ceaseless commitment to activity is very American, it isn’t very Christian. Even the Ten Commandments require one day of rest, spent in worship of Almighty God. Rest and refreshment are healthy – physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Periods of relaxation remind us that we are not the center of the universe and that the world continues to spin without our help. At rest we give ourselves the opportunity to appreciate quiet and beauty. Only when we pause can we really experience nature or art or even other people. Pope Benedict XVI regularly reminded the Church that beauty is essential to life: whenever we encounter anything beautiful we encounter God, Who is all-beautiful. There are so many things we pass each day that are truly beautiful but we ignore them or take them for granted. This time of year a garden can become something to which we become enslaved or it can become an experience of nature’s beauty and bounty.
Not everyone gets an extravagant vacation each year. For some it’s a matter of finances; for others age or infirmity or commitments keep them tethered to their homes throughout the summer period. This doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to some rest too! We need to be creative in the ways we rest. For some, a Sunday afternoon nap is a real treat. For others it’s a visit to a friend, a dish of ice cream, a ride in a car, or an evening on the porch. Time and finances might be limited, but no one should be denied some time to relax and refresh.
Prayer too can become either an experience of work or of rest. No one should deceive themselves: prayer is hard work. But sometimes we need to give ourselves a break from the work of prayer and simply enjoy spending time with the Lord. Enjoying the beauty of religious art or music, the sacredness of nature, or a good spiritual book can recharge one’s batteries. Learning about a newly discovered Saint can be fun too. With all the bad news we face every day we must allow ourselves the opportunity to be renewed in hope, joy, and faith. Make sure you rest some this summer and throughout the year. Those moments of quiet will be the ones the Lord uses to make Himself known to you – and to simply know how near He really is.