Maybe it is because the semester has finished here at the university and things are quiet at the Catholic Center and I am anticipating the slower pace of the summer months but my soul recently has been reflecting on the need to rest and recoup.
I have noticed that in more than a few of his writings, interviews and reflections Pope Benedict talks about the danger of “activism”. A danger that is very rampant in our day and age. Activism is that tendency to think we always have to be active; we always have to be doing something if life is going to be worthwhile and we are going to “make our mark” in history. Of all people certainly it is a pope who could be tempted to activism as he looks at the needs of the world and the pulpit he alone has to address those needs. A pope, he notes, could continually be active – twenty four hours and seven days a week. But, wisely the Holy Father cautions us and himself against this temptation and he does this because he is a humble man who knows that the job of Savior of the world has already been filled. Activism (he knows) is rooted in hubris, in pride. The antidote to activism is the humble realization that we are creature and not Creator and also the willingness to enjoy this realization.
Further, not only does activism puff us up it also wears us down. We cannot go twenty four and seven. We need rest and specifically sabbath rest. Paradoxically activism even warps the arena and space of rest. Rest rather than standing on its own with its own value becomes, under the tyranny of activism, just an allotted time and space only begrudgingly allowed in order to rest up for more work! The day off is allowed only in order that we might be better workers not because the day off itself (leisure) has its own value and its own nourishment that the human soul stands in need of.
Under activism rest itself becomes shallow, superficial and tiresome.
Sabbath rest is different. Here is a quote from the treatise, “Flight from the World” by St. Ambrose that helps to bring out the unique character of sabbath rest.
Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit, even if you are kept here in the body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to him, you must follow after him in your thoughts, you must tread his ways by faith, not in outward show. You must take refuge in him. He is your refuge and your strength. David addresses him in these words: I fled to you for refuge, and I was not disappointed.
Since God is our refuge, God who is in heaven and above the heavens, we must take refuge from this world in that place where there is peace, where there is rest from toil, where we can celebrate the great sabbath, as Moses said: The sabbaths of the land will provide you with food. To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility.
Sabbath rest is “like a banquet … full of gladness and tranquility.” Rather than emptying and depleting the soul; Sabbath rest nourishes and fulfills and it enables us to put things in proper perspective.
We are made and meant for sabbath rest; for the banquet that nourishes, fulfills and restores relationship. We are not made to just work and work and hopefully maybe catch a day off here and there.
“The sabbaths of the land will provide you with food.”
It would do us all well to be attentive to this truth.