Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
We don’t rest well these days. Even though we have at our fingertips more time saving devices to accomplish more in less time in just about every area of our lives, we don’t seem to be luxuriating in the extra time we have to rest. Instead, we feel compelled to do more. We are increasingly a rest-less people.
Living a life in reverence for God had become an onerous thing in Jesus’s day. Ordinary people felt the heavy burden of obedience to meticulously detailed laws of observance. For example, if one was to observe the sabbath—the day of rest on the 7th day of the week—there was a body of legal detail that was mind boggling to the point of being tyrannical. One was always in danger of blowing it. So much for rest.
In Jesus’ view, people were being robbed of rest, of the gift of sabbath, in their very effort to keep it. It was meant to be an experience of freedom, of release from the laborious nature of human existence, and a recovery of simply being in time as God intended. Abraham Heschel puts it this way: “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
Rest is not simply the absence of work. It is the experience of being embraced by the mystery of our being—of suspending our need for recognition and productivity in order to recognize the grace that is intrinsic to our very existence.
When our attention is constantly arrested by our plethora of technological devices day in and day out, one day of rest FROM our technologically mediated lives is a good place for us to start. It might be the best way for us to begin to feel the unrecognized, wearisome burdens we are carrying.
Nothing angered Jesus more than his observance of a burdened people in need of rest. I have no doubt he would find our existence no less troubling. St. Augustine prayed, “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”
Prayer: Gracious God, on this Sabbath day, I seek to rest…in Thee. Amen.