As a young Sister I lived for a year at St. Benedict Convent adjacent to the Benedictine Abbey. One winter night another young Sister and I tramped to the yard outside the many windows of the Abbey. There in the snow we wrote the Benedictine motto, “Ora et Labora” (Prayer and Work), for the monks to see.
I suggest today that this motto be expanded to read Ora et Labora et Recreatio. Rest and play are part of a healthy spirituality. As a child no doubt Jesus played, wrestling with neighborhood friends, running races. And his mother saw to it that he got enough rest: “Jesus, come home now. It’s time for bed.” As an adult, Jesus took a nap during a raging storm. The Gospels inform us that after the apostle reported to Jesus all they had done and taught he told them to “come apart and rest a while.” He says the same words to us sometimes. A wit noted that if we don’t come apart we are in danger of coming apart. Jesus also invited, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:128).
Many modern people are caught up in a never-ending cycle of work. They function like gerbils running in a wheel. We call them workaholics. If you watch Hallmark movies, you know that a usual plot line is that one of the two partners in a relationship is too busy. Sadly, this often mirrors the real world.
How refreshing it is to step out of the stressful whirlwind of work once in a while and take a vacation be it traveling to another state or enjoying a staycation. Better still, we can a retreat to renew our tired soul. By varying our daily activity and arranging such a “rest,” we come back to our job with renewed vigor and interest.
This old saying is grounded in a truth: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Constant work may turn one into a tired, angry, pessimistic person. It leads to burnout. That is why Jesus chides Martha for being worried and anxious about many things. Burying ourselves in work may be a barricade preventing us from associating with other people, even our loved ones.
There are reasons for overworking. The economy today may demand it for some folks. On the other hand, it may be a form of escapism: I can forget my problems if I focus on work. Or it may be driven by greed: wanting to make a much money as possible.
I just discovered this saved on my computer:
During a job interview, I was asked, “What do you do for fun?” Good question! My answer would reveal whether I was a sane person. It’s normal to play. We are made in the image of God, who, judging from creation, is playful. By the way, Genesis tells us God rested on the seventh day after accomplishing a tremendous job. That is why we have the tradition of not working on Sunday but doing something fun, in particular with our family.
So why wait until we get sick or have an accident and be subjected to an enforced rest?
By being a person who balances prayer, work, and play, we can look forward to eternal rest.
• What do you do for fun?
A hymn about resting in the Lord: