True Rest

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

As another summer draws to a close, I feel the urge and anxiety of a new school year. Usually around this time, I begin to feel upset about the use of my time over the summer. The hours upon hours spent playing video games, the ignored work for the school year, the goals left untouched - all these swirl around my mind, keeping me up at night as I think about what this summer could have been.

I often put myself in this trap, wasting free time away, under the excuse that “I deserve a rest”. This is certainly true, but as I’m learning, there are ways to rest well. To some of you, the gift of breaks throughout your year is a long lost treat from your school days. Others may be in similar positions as myself, feeling the dread of a return to work. Regardless, I think there is something that we all can learn from this experience of rest, and our desire/need to rest well.

Take a look at the disciples. In chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus sends them off to drive out demons and anoint the sick (Mark 6:13). At the end of this mission, they return, obviously exhausted. Jesus understands all that they’ve done, and instructs them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Rest comes as a command by Jesus himself. Just as Christ had previously called them to leave everything behind and follow Him, today, He is asking them to rest. I think too often I can look at my work, my relationships, and my spiritual life as a never-ending stream of work, and if I don’t keep it up, if I don’t consistently give my 100%, I’m not doing enough. It’s welcome words to hear from Christ of the need for rest. I can only imagine the relief that the disciples felt upon hearing these words.

It’s important for us to note that Jesus’ command to rest, does not say to “Go off by yourself and play video games for three hours,” or “Go off by yourself and watch Netflix in bed all day”. In his brief one-sentence command, there exists the key to resting well. It’s the word “deserted”. For me, I spent much of my time this summer “resting” by distracting myself. I brought in more noise, more things into my life, so that when I thought I was resting, I was actually making myself more tired. Think of that word “deserted”. What images come to mind? How does a deserted place sound?  Upon first imagining this, we might in fact be scared. I picture a hot, sandy, dry, empty expanse. It’s uncomfortable, there’s no respite, no shelter to escape the silence, the sun, the heat. I’m already thinking of things with which to distract myself.

At first glance, there is no oasis, no escape from the silence. But our perspective of what truly refreshes and nourishes us is off. I may often think that recreation (literally re-creating myself) is something that can only be accomplished by those things that are fun, things that often take my mind off the world and the pressures going on in my life. Instead, there is one who will nourish us, so that we will never be thirsty again (John 4:14). Christ ought to be the object of our rest and re-creation. And how fitting is it that we as a Church are reading through John chapter 6 where Christ reveals to us that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). How necessary is it for us to rest well with Christ!

It is worth noting that the disciples in fact were not given the opportunity to rest following Christ’s command, due to the people coming from all over, hungry for both Christ’s teaching and for sustenance. I think this is a perfect example of the strain we feel in our daily lives. How often does it occur that you’ve returned from a tough day at work, desiring only to put your feet up and watch TV, and suddenly you are needed to solve a problem, attend to a sick loved one, or needed elsewhere? Our need for rest compounds and what we are left with is a desire to escape, to re-create ourselves through things that shut us off, make us less than we really are. I’m not knocking video games, television, sleep, sports, or activities, but when we make these things the sole object of our rest and recuperation, we are left thirsting and hungry for more.

What I’ve learned over this summer is my need for frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, and regular trips to the Blessed Sacrament. Without Christ as the object and source of my rest, I’m filling myself up with things that will only make me crave true rest more. Not only that, it will provide the strength needed to respond to the call when I’m needed, no matter how tired I am. I encourage each and every one of you to order your rest to Christ. Let Him re-create you into being the Beloved Son of God the Father that you truly are.

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