Today’s Gospel from St. Mark opens with the Apostles gathering with Jesus to report to him all they had done and taught. Doubtless Jesus is pleased at what they have done, but what he says to them is “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
We have a tendency to move from activitiy to activity, trying to eke the most out of every day. There are many consequences of this – the rush to get each thing done, the lack of ability to savor any of it, the lack of reflectiveness about what we are doing, and so on.
But as Jesus’ words to his disciples makes clear, we need to nave time of rest. As Brother David Steindl-Rast writes:
When our purposeful work also is meaningful, we will have a good time in the midst of it. Then we will not be so eager to get it over with. If you spend only minutes a day getting this or that over with, you may be squandering days, weeks, years in the course of a lifetime. Meaningless work is a form of killing time. But leisure makes time come alive. The Chinese character for being busy is also made up of two elements: heart and killing. A timely warning. Our very heartbeat is healthy only when it is leisurely.
The heart is a leisurely muscle. It differs from all other muscles. How many push-ups can you make before the muscles in your arms and stomach get so tired that you have to stop? But your heart muscle goes on working for as long as you live. It does not get tired, because there is a phase of rest built into every single heartbeat. Our physical heart works leisurely. And when we speak of the heart in a wider sense, the idea that life-giving leisure lies at the very center is implied. Never to lose sight of that central place of leisure in our life would keep us youthful.
Are you giving yourself the rest you need? Do you tak ethe time to come away and rest for a while?
Update: a good reflection on the priority of personal prayer here.