This line from yesterday’s gospel has been speaking to me in light of the events of the past week. It’s the invitation that Jesus gives to his followers, recognizing that they are tired from the busyness of their lives and the demands that are being put upon them.
I think this invitation is being extended to all of us – we too are in need of a rest. To put aside the busyness of our lives, to schedule some time when nothing is scheduled, to refocus on how we want to be nourished.
It’s this nourishment that I think is missing in this day and age. We make appointments at all hours of the day, we answer the phone whenever it rings (even if it interrupts what we’re doing), we see nothing wrong with eating in the car or in front of the TV. Our smart phones mean we can take the office with us wherever we go; we become slaves to our technology rather than using them as useful tools for our communications. Our constant use of gadgets means that we are not leaving work at work but are instead bringing it with us to our homes, our vacations, our families.
So where is our rest? Where is our time away?
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all just take a week off of work; I’m suggesting that we examine our lives in to find out where we can improve our spiritual rest. A time of intentional connectedness with one another and with God. A time of prayer, a time of community, a time of peace.
This past week we’ve seen people cast aside their busy lives in order to be together, to support one another, to pray. To simply be present, to seek peace. Sadly, these have come as a direct result of tragic violence. First in Toronto where gang-related violence destroyed a street party; then in Colorado where a night at the movies turned into a horrific event. We’re also remembering the first anniversary of the youth camp in Norway.
These are devastating events; lives have been lost, innocence has been shattered, trust has been corrupted. And sadly, this week’s events are not the first time we’ve seen this type of violence of late; I fear that this type of violence will continue to plague our society.
And so people are coming together. They are coming together to bring light and hope into times and places where darkness has encroached. They are coming together in shock, in anger, in grief. They are coming to mourn, to support, to pray. They are not continuing on with their busy schedules, but instead are caught up in responding in love to the devastation. They’re coming together in person, in the media, over social media; people are attending vigils, leaving mementos of peace, offering prayers.
These are people who are exhausted by the pressures of the reality before them. These are people who need a rest from the crushing violence. These are people – like you and I – who simply do not understand why and how these horrible things keep happening.
These are people who need a rest; not just from acts of violence but so often in many aspects of our lives.
These are people – you and I included – who are being invited to put the secular world on hold for just a moment and to truly listen to the invitation that Jesus is making.
We are invited to come away from the evil that is in the world, from those acts which are unthinkably horrid; away from the constant media stream detailing the evil, away from the blame-game of accusations, away from the analysis and politicking. We all need to come away from that busyness in our lives which prevents us from connecting with God.
We are invited to come away to a deserted place – not a desolate place, but one without this busyness; one without distractions and explanations and schedules. We are invited to understand these things for what they are, and identify what their purpose is within our lives; to then recognise when we do not need them any further. We are invited to the deserted place where we turn off the computer, the radio, the TV; we’re invited to the deserted place by ourselves where we can focus on building and re-building community through conversations and shared experiences and communal worship. We’re invited to the deserted place where schedules are left behind, a place where we celebrate that we are spiritual beings whose lives are so much more than the earthly work that we can get caught up in.
We are invited to rest for a while. To be nourished by the gift of spending intentional time with one another and with God. To spend time thinking and reflecting on the actions of the world, and determining our Christian response. We are invited to contemplate how our lives will be affected by what is happening in the world around us – we are invited to pray, to build community, to support one another. We are invited to rest ourselves spiritually in such a way that we are prepared and empowered by God’s grace to exercise our ministry in a faithful way. We’re invited to seek out the ways we can demonstrate God’s love to a world that is so desperate to receive it. And then, after a short while, we’re invited to return – nourished and prepared – to be a loving Christian presence.
So this week I pray that we will all hear and accept Jesus’ invitation. I pray that we will take some time to come away, to a deserted place all by ourselves, and rest for a while.
For those whose lives have been devastated by violence, I pray that they will find rest to heal.
For those whose earthly lives have been ended by violence, I pray that they may rest in peace.
For those of us who are struggling to see God’s presence in this world full of violence, I pray we might all find true rest in Christ.