We don’t find vacation restful enough because we don’t understand what true rest is, or what it’s for. This was the observation made my Pope Francis today as he continued his general audience series on the Ten Commandments.
Regarding the Third Commandment — “Keep holy the Sabbath Day” — the pope observed that it “seems like an easy commandment to obey, but this is a mistaken impression. Truly resting is not simple, because there is false repose and true repose. How can we recognize them?”
The Hoy Father spoke about how thirsty our culture is for vacation, and how the “industry of distraction” is flourishing, with its promises of enjoyment and a good time.
“The dominant concept of life today has its centre of gravity not in activity and in commitment, but in evasion,” he stated. “Earning for fun and satisfaction. The model image is that of a successful person who can afford extensive and various spaces for pleasure.”
However, the pope explained, this mentality doesn’t bring satisfaction, but the opposite. Rather than finding rest in enjoyment, we have “alienation and fleeing from reality.”
“Man has never relaxed as much as today, yet man has never experienced such emptiness as he does nowadays,” Francis suggested.
The answer to this puzzle is found precisely in the Third Commandment, he said.
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“Rest in the name of the Lord has a precise motive: ‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. […] ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.'”
Thus, the day of rest is about “God’s joy for what He has created. It is the day of contemplation and blessing,” the pope said.
Rest, as God commands it for us, is the “moment of contemplation, it is the moment of praise, not escape. It is the time for looking at reality and saying: How beautiful life is! In contrast to rest as flight from reality, the Decalogue places rest as the blessing of reality.”
That’s why for Christians, the center of our day of rest is the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving: “It is the day for saying to God: thank You Lord for life, for Your mercy, for all Your gifts. Sunday is not the day for cancelling out the other days but for remembering them, blessing them, and making peace with life.”
“Sunday is the day for making peace with life, saying: Life is precious; it is not easy, at times it is painful, but it is precious,” he continued.
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The pope invited us to turn away from attention on unhappiness, always “underlining reasons for discontent.”
“Good is loving and never imposes itself. It must be chosen,” he said, and peace, as well, “cannot be imposed and it is not found by chance.”
“Moving away from the bitter folds of his heart, man needs to make peace with what he flees from. It is necessary to reconcile oneself with one’s own history, with the facts that one does not accept, with the difficult parts of one’s own existence. […] Indeed, true peace does not mean changing one’s history, but accepting it, making the most of it, just as it is,” he said.
“When does life become beautiful?” Francis asked. “When you start to think well of it, whatever your story may be. When the gift of a doubt makes its way: that which is all grace, and that holy thought breaks down the inner wall of dissatisfaction, inaugurating authentic rest. Life becomes beautiful when the heart is opened to Providence and discovers that what the Psalm says is true, ‘My soul finds rest in God alone’ (62: 2). It is beautiful, this phrase from the Psalm: My soul finds rest in God alone.'”
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