The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
July 22, 2018 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is mid-summer. It’s a good time to recall the song, “Summertime.” Many of us can fill in the next line: “When the livin’ is easy.” Summer is often connected with the idea of holiday and vacation. Travel and leisure. A time to take it easy. Today’s gospel addressed the importance of taking a breather when needed. It’s akin to a Sabbath rest – although in this instance, there is no mention of that. Still, Jesus noticed that the disciples were busy with pressing crowds and ceaseless activities and that they needed a break. So, he said, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”
Historians note that the Jewish religion was the first to create a week with a built-in rest day, the Sabbath. In earlier times, ordinary people were expected to work all the time, especially if they were slaves or servants. But in the Judaic Law there was a provision for a different arrangement of time. In fact, it was a major addition. It was even said to originate in God’s own work schedule as described in the Book of Genesis. God rested on the seventh day.
What’s behind this new arrangement of the days of the week? Two things come to mind. First, the recognition that when life is all work, even work itself can be negatively affected. Workers become worn down. Productivity diminishes. Accidents are more common. And people can become depressed. So, the addition of a rest period can actually enhance productivity.
But even more important is that a central human and spiritual need is addressed, that of living life as enjoyable, delightful and with greater happiness. This can even be traced to God’s intent for creating us in the first place. God created us because God loves us and intends that we be happy. This idea can even be found in official teachings of the church. And achieving moments of happiness is more assured when we allow ourselves times of leisure, rest and enjoyment. And Jesus knew this. One of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of his life was times when he simply took time to share meals, play with children and when needed, rested. Sometimes he did this alone and sometimes with others. We don’t need a reason to do something similar. He recommends this for his first disciples and he would for us, too.
©David M. Thomas, PhD