Duty to rest in order to better serve God and others

Let's learn to rest. And if we can avoid exhaustion, we should not fail to do so. The Lord wants us to take care of our health, to know how to recover our strength; it is part of the fifth commandment. Rest is necessary to restore lost energy and to make our work more effective. And, above all, to better serve God and others.

"Think that God loves his creatures passionately, and how will the donkey work if it is not fed, nor has time to restore its strength, or if its vigor is broken by excessive beating? Your body is like a donkey - a donkey was the throne of God in Jerusalem - which carries you on its back along the divine paths of the earth: it must be tamed so that it does not stray from the paths of God, and encouraged so that its trot is as joyful and spirited as can be expected of a donkey."

When one is prostrate, it is less easy to do things well, as God wants us to do them, and also the lack of charity, at least by omission, can be more frequent. St. Jerome points out with good humor: "Experience teaches me that when the donkey is tired, he leans on every corner".

It has been said that "rest is not doing nothing: it is distracting ourselves in activities that require less effort"; it is interior enrichment, a frequent occasion for a greater apostolate, for fostering friendship, etc. Rest is not to be confused with laziness.

Our Mother Church has always been concerned about the physical health of her children. Pope John Paul II, commenting on the Gospel passage that narrates the stay and rest of Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary, pointed out that rest means to leave daily occupations, to detach oneself from the normal fatigues of the day, the week and the year. It is important that it not be "walking in emptiness", that it not be only an emptiness. At times, the Pontiff said, it will be necessary to encounter nature, the mountains, the sea and the trees. And of course, it will always be necessary for rest to be filled with a new content, the content of an encounter with God: to open the inner sight of the soul to his presence in the world, to open the inner ear to his Word of truth.

We well understand that not a few people dedicate periods of rest at work to pastimes and activities that do not facilitate, and sometimes even hinder, this encounter with Christ. Far from allowing ourselves to be carried away by a more or less extended environment, the choice of a vacation spot, the program for a trip, the weekend activity that we have the opportunity to dedicate to rest should be guided by this perspective: the same rule applies to rest as to work: to love God and neighbor. We should avoid being preoccupied with ourselves and seek union with the Lord; it is always a time to be concerned for others, to care for them, to help them, to take an interest in their hobbies. It is always time to love. Love does not admit blank spaces. Jesus rested for reasons of obedience to the law of Moses, family demands, friendship or fatigue..., like anyone else. He never did so because he was tired of serving others. He never isolated himself and showed himself unapproachable, as if to say: "Now it is my turn! We must never be moved by selfish motives, not even when it is time to stop and regain our strength. In those moments we are also close to God; it is not a pagan time, alien to the interior life.

In the Gospel of the Mass, the Lord gives us a very special sign of love: to be concerned about the fatigue and health of those who live next to us. And at the well of Sychar, exhausted, he gave us a formidable example: he did not miss the opportunity to do apostolate, to convert the Samaritan woman. And this, in spite of the fact that there was no dealings between Jews and Samaritans. When there is love, not even exhaustion is an excuse for not doing apostolate.