Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of July is dedicated to increased devotion to the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus. Let us ask our good Lord for the grace to know and understand the power of His Precious Blood over evil!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the importance of rest and leisure. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
Rest and Recreation: Sanctifying rest and recreation: In the First Reading (Jer. 23:1-6) the prophet Jeremiah tells us: I will gather the remnant of my flock… and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. The prophecy is refer-ring to the Messiah’s careful attention to every member of the human race. Near restful waters He leads me, to revive my drooping spirit, we read in the Responsorial Psalm. (Ps. 22:1-6)
The Gospel (Mark 6:30-34) on this Sunday shows us Jesus’ solicitude for His disciples, tired out as they are after an apostolic mission to the neighboring towns and villages. Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile, He says to them. And the Evangelist explains that there were so many people coming and going at that time that they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. What marvelous things Jesus must have asked them and told them! (J. Escriva, Furrow, 470)
Our life, like theirs, is one of service to Christ, to our family and to society; it is a life of work and of dedication to souls. And so we shouldn’t be surprised if we sometimes feel tired and need a rest. In our free time we need to recuperate our energies if we are to serve better and also avoid injuring our health. If this latter were to hap-pen it would, among other considerations, have repercussions on the people around us, on the quality of what we offer to God and on our apostolic task; it would affect the proper attention to children, to husband or wife, to our brothers or sisters, to our friends; our apostolate, and the attention and formation of the people whom Our Lord has placed under our care, would all suffer as a result.
On occasion we may be seriously obliged to take a rest. St. Gregory Nazianzen comments that a cord cannot endure constant tension, and an archer needs to loosen the ends of a bow if he wants to be able to draw it again later on. (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Prayer 26) God wills that as far as we ourselves are concerned we should take care to be in good physical condition, because He expects a lot of us. See how much God loves us, my brethren, says St. Augustine, because when we rest, it is really He Who rests! (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 131, 12) But we have to rest like good Christians, in the first place by sanctifying our loss of energy and loving God in our tiredness when circumstances force us to work without a break for a long period. In situations of this sort we can draw special comfort from having recourse to Jesus Our Lord, Who Himself so often ended His day exhausted. He understands us well.
The Christian attitude to recreation: Very often, perhaps for long stretches at a time, we may not feel in great form and yet have to soldier on at our business, housework or study. This shouldn’t upset us: it is part of the human condition and very often simply a sign that we are working hard. There come days, says St. Teresa in all simplicity, when a single word distresses me and I long to leave the world altogether, for everything in it seems to weary me. (St. Teresa, The Way of Perfection, 38, 6) Moments like these are for turning to God, because it means that Our Lord is very close to us and wants us to take the appropriate remedy: to go to the doctor perhaps, and do what he tells us; to get a little more sleep; to go for a walk or maybe read a good book. God allows things like this to happen to us to make us more detached from our health, or to get us to grow in Charity, to make the effort to smile even though it may be hard - perhaps very hard. Offering this situation to God can be extremely meritorious, even though we may feel totally dry and with no appetite for devotional practices.
Come away… and rest awhile, says the Master. Far from being an excuse to get wrapped up in ourselves, relaxation is an occasion to seek Christ, because there are no holidays in Love. St. Augustine tells us that whichever way the soul of man turns, if it be not towards Thee it encounters pain (St. Augustine, Confessions, 4, 10, 15) - at the very least, the pain of having pushed God aside.
Holiday time isn’t meant to be a time for doing nothing. Rest means recuperation - to gain strength, to form ideals and make plans. In other words, it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later to your daily job with a renewed energy. (cf. J. Escriva, Furrow, 514) It has to be a time of interior enrichment, a time when Love of God is given a chance to grow in a climate of careful attention to our devotional practices and self-effacing acts of service, and when we try in a special way to make life more pleasant for the people around us; their contentment and happiness can contribute greatly to our own relaxation.
Nowadays one gets the impression that many people leave their supernatural life totally to one side when planning where to go for their holidays: they often choose resorts which are so paganized that no good-living Christian should be seen there. It would be very silly of someone who normally tries to live in the presence of God, to tacitly endorse that sort of environment by holidaying there, not to mention the danger of leaving themselves open to offending God grievously. It would be even worse in the case of parents allowing their children and other dependents to do so, and as a result suffering what will possibly be irreparable damage to their souls: they would then have on their consciences their own sins and the sins of their children. For situations like these one could quote the words of St. Augustine: What mean you thus to travail and trudge on through these hard and painful ways? There is no rest where you are seeking it. Seek still that which you seek, but seek it not there where you seek it. You seek for a happy life in the very region of death. Not there is it to be found. For how can a happy life be found there, where there is not so much as any life at all? (St. Augustine, Confessions, 4 12, 18; cf. Commentary on the Psalms, 33, 2)
In some environments people seem to be totally unaware of the morality of cooperation in evil, and so if we want to live like good Christians, and to have others do so too, we need to refresh their minds about it as the occasion arises, always putting things to them very positively. We shouldn’t forget that the obligation to rest is not something absolute, because our spiritual welfare - and our neighbor’s - comes before bodily well-being. The unity that there should be in a Christian’s life between Faith and behavior demands that the time spent recovering physical energies should not cause the soul to become sick and paralyzed, or at least enfeebled. Moreover, with a little bit of good will it is always possible to find or to set up ways and means of taking a break while having God very close to us in our soul in grace, and to make good use of the time to deepen friendships and to do a fruitful apostolate. Observance of Holy Days: Christians… should cooperate in the cultural framework and collective activity characteristic of our times, to humanize them and imbue them with a Christian spirit. (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 61) In present-day society many people enjoy more free time thanks to the tendency to shorten the working week with longer weekends and holiday periods, and it is up to us to offer them upright and attractive alternatives in the use of such additional leisure. We also have to get across to them the essentially religious nature of Holy Days of obligation, without which those very special times would lose their meaning - Christmas, Holy Week, Sundays and the other Feasts of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. This is an urgent apostolate, because as time goes on more and more people are making use of these days to take a break from their daily duties, and perhaps also from God. Holy Days have a decisive role in helping Christians receive better the action of Divine Grace and in enabling them to respond to it more generously. (Spanish Episcopal Conference, Holy Days of Obligation, 13 December 1982, 1, 5) The Holy Mass is the heart of the Christian Feast (ibid.), and in it we offer Our Lord everything that makes up our day. Nothing else can have any meaning if we neglect this, our first duty to God, or if it is left to be ‘fitted in’ at some spare moment, and the rest of the day filled with things which are reckoned to be more important. In a Christian who wants God to be the center of his or her life, to behave like this would, at the very least, be a sign of lukewarmness. We have to give Him the best we have, especially on Feast Days, even if to do so means having to make some changes in our plans. If we are generous, we will experience the deep joy that always comes from responding to the Love of our Father God.
When Jesus headed off in the boat with His disciples to get away from it all, the Gospel of the Holy Mass continues to tell us that many saw where they were making for and went there on foot and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed He saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. That day neither Jesus nor His disciples managed to get any rest. Our Lord’s example teaches us here that the needs of others come before our own. On many occasions we too have to forgo our rest, postponing it till later because of people who are expecting care and attention from us. Let us do it as readily as Our Lord looked after that multitude who needed Him, putting to one side the plans He had made. It is a good example of detachment for us to apply to our own situation.”
(From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace of holy rest and leisure!
In Christ through Mary,