For the next two months, we’re going to do something that we’ve never done at St. Anthony’s: I’m asking all of you to rest! We all get tired, and some of you look so tired right now. God wants us to rest this summer. So, here are a few questions that will guide our rest: 1) What are your needs? God speaks through our legitimate needs. 2) What would make this summer the most restful one ever for you? 3) How much sleep do you need? Sleep isn’t always laziness. God wants us to rest. 4) How’s your prayer? Do you give God enough time or do you cheat Him, meaning not giving the One we love the time we could and should? 5) What gives you true enjoyment?
[Listen to Fr. Justin’s homily here.]
Pope Benedict once said, “[Man] cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must… receive love as a gift… As the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow… Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ…” (Pope Benedict, Deus Caritas Est, 7,2).
This summer we want to receive new life from Jesus, and the Gospel tells us how. It says, “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’” (Lk 10:17). The 70 disciples, returning from their mission of preaching and healing, were successful, and had power over the devil! Jesus rejoices with them, saying, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lighting” (Lk 10:18).
But He goes on, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20). He’s commanding us to rejoice in something better! He Himself rejoiced at Satan’s being defeated, but more important is that our names are written in heaven, meaning we’re saved. So, the question today, that will guide our summer and our rest, is: In what do we rejoice?
There are many good things in which we rejoice: having a good day, being with friends, relaxing. However, there’s more: doing God’s will, growing in faith, evangelizing! But more fundamentally is that we once were far from God the Father, but Jesus reconciled us. And we’ve received Jesus through repentance, faith, and baptism!
There are two reasons why we should celebrate the most important things:
1) St. Cyril of Alexandria says that if the disciples in the Gospel passage rejoice in having power over Satan, they might fall into the sin of arrogance—that, by the way, was what Jesus meant by Satan’s falling from heaven like lightning; he went from “pride to humiliation” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Luke, 175). That can also happen to us: We can celebrate good things but attribute them to ourselves and forget about God.
2) We become what we celebrate. Matthew Kelly gives an insightful example: When we look at an average teenager’s bedroom, we see posters of people not worthy of emulation; we see books that undermine the dignity of the person and the Faith; we listen to music that’s about lust, not self-giving; and their video games celebrate violence (Rediscover Catholicism, 50). They will become like those things. When we celebrate superficial things, we become superficial. Last week every person I mentioned whom I admire (my friend who doesn’t watch videos at work, the monks, and the Alpha director who has clear daily priorities) celebrates discipline—that’s why they’re disciplined people and truly free!
Parents, what would you celebrate? When our kids come home with good marks, do we celebrate that, or do we celebrate their effort? Because we’re communicating what we want them to become. I personally admire people who achieve something in life, because that shows some virtue, but I celebrate even more the person who’s faithful to God, who prays, who has a deep soul and is serious about life.
Most people say Catholics “go” to Mass on Sunday, but that’s not the right verb. We never say we “do” Mass; what do we say? We “celebrate” Mass! What do we celebrate? God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice, His word, the Eucharist—every time we come to Mass, we become more loving, sacrificial, wise, and humble.
The reason most of us are so busy and don’t rest is because we celebrate production and success, and it can become a trap. I’ve mentioned how we go on vacation and have to see every tourist attraction, and come back more tired than when we left—what kind of vacation is that?
Stop making achievement your number one priority! Yes, achievement is necessary and praiseworthy, but it is not our identity. Our fundamental identity is that we’re adopted by God as His children. Do you know how blessed we are to be Catholic, to know Jesus? Celebrate that! There’s no one else like Him. Celebrate Him!
Our new season is called The Sabbath Summer, lasting for July and August. The Sabbath, according to the Bible, is about resting in God. This season has to do with becoming saints, because the saints knew how to rest in God and truly enjoy His gifts: Think of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and her family, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and his laughter, St. Andre in Montreal with people, or Bl. Chiara Luce Badano’s playing sports. Our cultural goal is that everyone has the best summer ever. The action goal? Worship God, rest, and celebrate the most important things.
The parish will not formally organize anything in order to give our leaders rest. If we have any events, they’ll help us rest or it’s because the leaders find rest in doing them. I’m not telling you to do nothing. Do what truly renews you. To renew your body, sleep and go to bed early. To renew your family, spend carefree timeliness together; have a BBQ and invite your friends and strangers. And to renew your soul, the most important, spend time with Jesus. Be aware of your legitimate needs, whether it’s for solitude or being with people, and nourish those needs.
When you come to the chapel, here’s my tip this week: Because the Eucharist is exposed and visible for adoration, it’s a Catholic custom to make a double genuflection, meaning go down on both knees; and many people make a profound bow with it. But, after that, choose a posture that helps you pray, rest, and focus. Fr. Jacques Philippe says it can be sitting, kneeling, face down on the floor, or standing (Time for God, 85). Mass is a formal liturgical prayer, so we follow postures that unite us and have fixed meanings. But, home and the chapel are times for informal prayer. When you go to the chapel, please take off your shoes, because God said to Moses, “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5). This is our home, so we feel relaxed, and enjoy sitting on the floor.
Next week, by the way, the parish will offer us a summer gift to help us be spiritually renewed.
Please take the bulletin home today and reflect on the five questions we asked at the beginning. Just by reflecting on them, we move into a more restful state.
Three years ago, I announced that we would renovate the chapel, and now I rejoice that it’s a taste of heaven. But I’m more deeply moved when I see people pray, in love with Jesus—that’s what we celebrate. And we become what we celebrate.