Are you a human being, or a human doing? That might sound like a funny question but throughout our normal schedules it's easy to jump from one task to another without really thinking about what is going on. In the hustle and bustle of life, family, and work, it is a fair question to ask how can I just ‘be’?
The truth of our Catholic faith and the reality of our human nature is that we both need and are made for rest and leisure. Without this critical time for rest and leisure we find that our hearts are restless as St. Augustine reminds us.
Throughout Scripture we are reminded of the need for rest, for the Lord’s day. In Genesis we hear that even God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation. Not because He was exhausted from creating but because as His creation we are being called and reminded to true and intentional leisure. We are made in the image and likeness of God and called to rest in the Father who is being itself. We are called to this encounter with God on a daily basis.
Leisure is often thought of as a day at the park or planting ourselves on the couch with a show to binge but if we are made for leisure then what does it mean to just stop and be?
Josef Pieper, a Catholic theologian, describes in his book Leisure: Basis of Culture that surprisingly enough leisure at its core is actually contemplation and worship of the divine. Leisure is inviting the Creator of all things, the God we are made by and for, into our minds and hearts. This encounter is an experience and relationship with peace and goodness that is found in God alone.
This radical reminder that true leisure is making room for God in our lives doesn’t mean that we can’t watch TV or have hobbies but reminds us that true rest lies in the one who has made us and loves us. It also reminds us that leisure isn’t just tuning out noise, but is an interior disposition of being receptive to our Father.
In society this idea of leisure is looked at as a complete waste of time. Being open to the Holy Spirit produces us no money, no fame, and no tangible product. It is easy for us to prioritize many other things before it and yet, it is what we are made for as an encounter with the living God. Pieper describes that leisure is like a celebration where we prepare our home out of joy to welcome friends, working not to receive anything physical back. Yet God as our guest is so good that when we invite Him into our hearts we receive His gifts and peace.
In this invitation of Christ into our hearts we are approaching God as children, with wonder and awe. This radical idea of leisure finds its summit in the Sacraments, in the Holy Eucharist, where we even tangibly receive God into our mind, body and soul. This receptivity and wonder that Pieper describes doesn’t just stop in the quiet where God speaks to us but transforms and lifts up our day-to-day tasks as an unceasing prayer.
Leisure as wonder and becoming like children means that we are called to stop each and every day, even just for a little, to give Christ permission to come into our hearts. Leisure is an interior silence, listening, and contemplating the divine mysteries of faith and life.
This radical call to leisure reminds us that we are made to rest and even wonder. We are called to be his children and to simply be in His presence. Patiently cultivating this rest in our lives bears fruits of peace and a deeper understanding of who God is and who we are as His beloved sons and daughters. We are called to lean into the rest, and to lean into the Lord as being itself.