In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about Jesus sending the apostles out on mission. When they returned from this active work, Our Lord said to them: Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.
I was thinking of these words last week when I went on vacation with my sister and her family. It was a wonderful time to rest and to spend time with my sister, brother-in-law and their children. I also enjoyed more time for prayer, reading, and exercise.
Summer vacation can be a wonderful opportunity for us to be refreshed in body, mind, and spirit. It is easy to become consumed by work and the toils of daily life. A relaxing vacation can be a great benefit. Pope Benedict has spoken of vacation time with family and loved ones as a providential gift of God.
The Holy Father recommends that on vacation we spend time with others and with God. He characterizes vacation as a time for rest and contact with God, people, nature, and culture. It is not a time away from Christ so it is vitally important that attendance at Sunday Mass be included in vacation planning. The rest and relaxation of vacation time should include spiritual repose, the refreshment of our souls as well as our bodies. The Holy Father even recommends taking a Bible along on vacation for spiritual reading and prayer.
The Pope encourages us to revivify our spirits while on vacation and suggests visiting sacred places (shrines, monasteries, churches) as well as contemplating the splendor of God’s creation in nature. Since today’s lifestyles leave little room for silence, reflection and being in touch with nature, he says, it has become necessary to be able to refortify one’s body and spirit with a relaxing vacation.
I find the Holy Father’s advice very helpful. I always feel more energized and refreshed when I return from vacation if it has included the spiritual elements he recommends as well as the physical, social, and cultural elements. When vacations are stressful or lack the spiritual element, we will not be truly refreshed when we return home.
The Lord indeed invites us, as he invited the apostles, to experience rest from our labors. This is possible not only in extended times of vacations. It is also the meaning and purpose of Sunday. Sunday should not be seen merely as part of the weekend, but as a holy day, the day of the Lord. It is a day at the very heart of the Christian life, the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Sunday needs to be rediscovered in our culture and in our lives as Christians as truly the day of the Lord. Blessed John Paul II called Sunday an indispensable element of our Christian identity.
At the very heart of Sunday and keeping it holy is the celebration of the Eucharist. On this day, above all others, we gather together to commemorate Our Lord’s resurrection. The Catechism teaches that the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life.
We keep Sunday holy by attending Sunday Mass and fulfilling that important obligation. Blessed John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Dies Domini (The Day of the Lord), wrote the following:
Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord’s Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work. This commits each of Christ’s disciples to shape the other moments of the day — those outside the liturgical context: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation — in such a way that the peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life.
In this wonderful apostolic letter, Blessed John Paul described Sunday as a day of joy, rest and solidarity. I highly recommend it for your reading (perhaps while on summer vacation!). It is good to ask ourselves how we observe the Lord’s Day. Do we see it as a sacred day and recognize its importance? If able, do we gather with our brothers and sisters to worship God in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly? Is it truly a day of joy, rest and solidarity? Does it have spiritual significance in our lives?
The Risen Lord calls us to receive the light of his word and the nourishment of his Body and Blood at the Sunday Eucharist. He calls us to experience the joy of living in his presence and grace. He calls us to come to him and find rest from our labors. He calls us to solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are poor, sick, suffering, or lonely.
Our secularized culture needs our witness to the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, to the joy of our faith in the Risen Lord. May our faithful observance of Sunday renew us in our witness to Christ and refresh us in our Christian lives!
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