Some time ago, after the Eucharistic Celebration in a parish, a woman came to greet me. Among other things, she told me about a period of holidays she had just concluded with her family. She said: “We have been on vacation for three weeks but now we need rest.” I did not ask her why, but this is what happens so often: many people, after their holidays, need rest because they fill their vacation time with commotion, unrestrained amusement, and exaggerated lightheartedness. All these things make people tired.
Pope Francis has lamented: “Today’s society thirsts for amusement and holidays… Advertising portrays the ideal world as one great amusement park where everyone has fun… This mentality makes one slip toward the dissatisfaction of life because of that kind of fun which is not rest but alienation and escape from reality.”
What is then the true rest for which the third Commandment asks respect?
– True rest is a sign of true freedom: we are not slaves of efficiency depending on work alone. We are called to celebrate life and this also requires rest.
– It is a beautiful way of imitating God who, after having created heaven and earth, “rested on the seventh day”, thus showing forth that we are His faithful children.
– It means opening ourselves to God Who gives peace and joy to the poor in spirit. “The poor will be able to graze and rest with no one to alarm them” (Zephaniah 3:13); “The wicked, however, are like the restless sea that cannot be still, whose waters throw up mud and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20).
– It means spending time with Jesus in prayer: “The apostles rejoined Jesus and told Him all they had done and taught, and He said to them, ‘Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’ for there were so many coming and going that there was no time even to eat. So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves” (Mark 6:30-32).
– When we stay with Jesus we realize more and more that not only does He gives us rest, He is our rest. Because of this we spend time contemplating and blessing Him.
– True rest is an expression of communion with the Church as we take part in the Eucharistic Celebration on Sundays and feast days. Pope Francis has said: “For us Christians the center of the Lord’s day, Sunday, is the Eucharist which means Thanksgiving. It is the day to say to God: thank you Lord for life, for your mercy, for all your gifts…. Many people are not at peace with life! Sunday is the day to make peace with life, saying: life is precious. It is not easy; sometimes it is painful, but it is precious”.
– It is an occasion when we give more time to meditate on the Word of God and prayer with our family members and friends.
– It is a privileged time to visit places of interest and the sick, the poor, and the lonely, helping all to experience the joy of rest.
God Runs Our Life
Pope Francis has said that the third Commandment is not an easy command to respect. In fact God’s day of rest presents a deep challenge for all. The issue that this Commandment addresses is a fundamental one: who controls our time? By keeping God’s day of rest we proclaim that God runs our life. He is the Lord of life and He is Lord of our time, too.
Through the intercession of Mary we ask the Lord to help us follow the pattern that the Father has established for us in a way that liberates us and gives us renewed vigor. This is not selfishness; in fact, the effects of observing the Lord’s rest day are wider than our own life; they ripple out into the life of others. For them we need to set an example, and by the use of our time, show that God is the Lord and that a society without God’s day of rest is heading for trouble.