Solomon’s prayer, “I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,” might well be a motif for every one of us. It is our prayer too.
We each serve God amid those to whom we are sent. At first one might think in terms of vocation and the myriad of ministries that accompany our life choices – be they associated with caring, education, leading, supporting, witnessing etc.
There is however another layer of ‘ministries’ that we all engage in – partnering, parenting, befriending, educating, assisting those in need of special care. Much of this work takes place within relationships and particularly within family systems.
Solomon’s prayer sets a context for the wisdom contained within the secondary call offered by Jesus in today’s gospel.
We see here that for those who labour in the many fields of life, and tirelessly serve others, there is a need to ‘step aside’ from time to time and rest. Such rest can be merely recuperative, that is, rest that allows us to marshal energy again and to face the next day or period of service. There is a deeper kind of rest too, one that we might call regenerative, a rest that allows creativity, enthusiasm and generosity to refresh themselves and to hold sway over us once more. This is a deeper kind of ‘rest’ one that allows the best in a person to surface and breathe once more. It is this kind of rest that creates space for capacities like forgiveness, sacrifice and commitment to reassert themselves in our lives. In such manner we can live more deeply the original call of our vocation.
It’s not that recuperative rest is bad, it is at times fully necessary. However, as Jesus notices, there is a need for deeper rest, a regenerative rest, so that we can reorient ourselves and live as we were created to live.
Of course, the great temptation is that ‘work’ or ‘the needs of others’ dictate that we cannot step aside for the time we most need. Jesus gives us a wonderful example and image today – when we cannot be present, he will continue the mission, and while we rest, he will tend to the very people he has entrusted to us.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is the Provincial Superior of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.