It seems to me we would be hard put to find a more appropriate Gospel for people preparing to travel in COVID times. Jesus invites us: Come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest awhile. “Ah, but Jesus,” you might be thinking: “most of us are tired of “deserted places.” But the idea of “rest while” from all the restrictions, the tangible fears, the ZOOM meeting. Now, that’s appealing.”
And, we’d think it bizarre for a traveler not to be prepared for their journey. We’d feel pity for the poor traveler who never read his/her itinerary and knew what the changing CDC requirements for the day of travel and at the destination. Which of these hundreds of aircraft might go where I want to go is the most safety conscious? Another summer the journey might not be the destination. We might be looking forward to the great feeling of just relaxing and enjoying a drive. Without wondering are we there yet? Does this motel look clean? Does this station have gas? Another summer we might view a crowded restaurant parking lot as a sign of “good food.” Today, we search for a place “not too crowded” for social distancing.
This week Jesus invites us, forget all that and “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” There are four parts to that statement – each one means something on its own: Come away. To a deserted place. All by yourselves. And rest a while.
Some people (surely not any of us) wear a badge of busyness as if it were a badge of honor. You might hear: “How are things going?” “Well, it been pretty crazy, I’ve been busy all day. Not enough time for everything.” The implicit message being: “I’m worthwhile because I’m busy.” But, you and I know it’s not really a badge of honor – it a sign of an imbalanced life … Remember the little saying: “all work and no play makes Jill a dull person.” There’s a better one: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Listen closely to Jesus’ words of invitation. He says precisely: Come away. He doesn’t say “get away” or “go away.” No, he says: “Come away.” An invitation that implies companionship” with the one whose yoke is easy. The One who promises His burden is light.
To a deserted place. I’m reminded of a message a few years ago from our retreat director Abbot Primate Gregory Polan: “It is my conviction that monasteries are among the most important places to our world today … what we offer is a warm welcome, whoever you are and whatever your story in life tells; we say, ‘come and be with us and find healing in the Word of God that we offer you’.” During COVID times our message from Holy Name may have been less “come away” but it was nonetheless sincere. Our Development Staff, with the input of some of the Sisters has reached out through Eblasts, website posts, snail mail and ZOOM opportunities. These were, and will continue to be invitation to our readers to recharge their spiritual batteries – to take time out of their self-made busyness trenches to keep company with God.
The view from the street here at the monastery offers sight of our grounds that are seen as an oasis for world-weary guests. But the seeds we plant must be sown more deeply than the grass. How good would a farm be if the owners only painted the silos and mended the fences? But never sowed seeds: no veggies, no fruit = no dinner.
Just in case you missed it, the invitation Jesus extends is to be “All by yourselves.” Jesus really means it. We have to find and take advantage of moments of quietness and prayer. The traffic can be whizzing by but in the quiet in the car I’m driving – maybe with gentle music in the background – can afford us time for “tightening the bonds that bind us ever closer to God and each other.”
And finally, Jesus says: Rest a while. This isn’t laziness. It’s not a perpetual state. It’s temporary. It’s for a while. But, for that while, it’s about rest. We cannot just minister to others day by day, month by month. We won’t be able to take care of others if we don’t make time to cater to ourselves and our own needs. We need to embrace the spiritual practice of rest. And, while some may think you’re a little crazy (or lazy)…you’ll be crazy in all the right ways.
First, forget technology exists – except maybe for some soft, calming music. Build in down-time to explore your feelings and get to the core of changes you need to make. Seize the opportunity to enjoy nature, the glorious sky, the rolling clouds and that rainbow. Take time to just BE.
Little by little you’ll discover that these “desert times” when you “come away awhile by yourself” with God can lift you out of life’s ruts and be restorative balm for body and spirit.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress