True rest is found in Christ – not escapism, pope says

By Hannah Brockhaus

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Pope Francis at the general audience Sept. 5, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/EWTN.

The commandment to rest on Sundays is an invitation to be centered on Christ and to give praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life, not to waste the day in distraction, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“For us Christians, the center of the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving.’ It is the day to say to God: thank you, thank you, Lord; thank you for life, for your mercy, for all your gifts,” the pope said Sept. 5.

Continuing his general audience catechesis on the Ten Commandments, Francis spoke about Sunday as “the day of rest,” which he said Christians may think is a simple and straightforward concept but is not.

Today society has a distorted view of rest, he said, arguing that people only focus on what will be fun or what will bring them pleasure, and that the model of a successful person is someone who can afford many things, nice vacations, and to do whatever activities they please.

Francis said this kind of existence is “anesthetized,” however, filled with entertainment, alienation, and escape from reality – not true rest. “Man has never rested as much as today, yet man has never experienced as much emptiness as today!” he said.

“What then is rest according to this commandment?” he asked. “It is the moment of contemplation, it is the moment of praise, not of evasion. It is time to look at reality and say: how beautiful life is!”

The pope pointed to the example of those Christians who, though they are suffering from illness, have still “consoled us with a serenity that is not found in pleasure-seekers and hedonists! And we have seen humble and poor people rejoice in small graces with a happiness that tasted of eternity.”

This is how Catholics should aim to spend Sunday, he said. Not erasing the previous six with distractions but reflecting on the past week and thanking God for its blessings and its challenges; “making peace” with what has happened, saying: “Life is precious; it’s not easy, sometimes it’s painful, but it’s precious.”

Francis discouraged Catholics from dwelling on bitterness, unhappiness, and discontent, and told them to open their hearts to accept even the difficult parts of their life, resisting the urge to run away from problems.

“Bending the heart to unhappiness, in fact, emphasizing reasons for discontent is very easy. Blessing and joy imply an openness to the good that is a mature movement of the heart,” he said.

He quoted the words of Genesis, at the end of the creation, when “God saw what he had done, and behold, it was very good.”

“And then begins the day of rest, which is God’s joy for what he has created,” he continued. “To be brought into authentic repose is a work of God in us.”

“Life becomes beautiful when the heart is opened to Providence and finds true what the Psalm says,” he concluded: “‘Only in God does my soul rest.’ This phrase from the Psalm is beautiful: ‘Only in God does my soul rest.’”

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