“Come apart and rest awhile.” Jesus’ words to his disciples are often used to introduce a time of retreat. We’re ending a retreat at Paoli in the Norbertine Abbey. Can we use those words to evaluate a retreat too? Were these days restful?
A few blogs back I reflected on the word “rest” in the bible and in our prayers, particularly the prayer “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord…”
God rested on the seventh day after completing the work of creation, the Book of Genesis says. God’s rest was a time of delight in what was done. We pray that those who depart from this world enjoy eternal rest, eternal delight. But what about us who haven’t completed our experience of life in this world? What about us?
Is our experience of rest more like that of the disciples whom Jesus told to come apart and rest awhile in the midst of his ministry? They obviously didn’t gain a lot of answers or clever bits of wisdom by coming apart and resting. According to the Gospel of Mark, for instance, even as they rest Jesus’ disciples hardly understand him at all.
They certainly didn’t have all the answers, So can we say that a retreat doesn’t give us a lot of answers. Perhaps we can say the rest a retreat gives is a sense that we are “on to something.” It may not be a time when great decisions are made or great insights given. It’s a time we know God is with us.
God will be our wisdom and strength for what we have to do in this world. We have a great High Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews will remind us in the liturgical readings for the last weeks of January. He is compassionate, loving and knows our weaknesses.
We are not alone, but are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses,” who accompany us and guide us. We are blessed to be part of a communion of saints.
Is that the rest we find from a retreat?