The Universal Call to Rest

There can be a huge dichotomy between studying (especially when you down to the wire because you’ve procrastinated) and living out the faith.

Without work, it is impossible to have fun. – St. Thomas Aquinas

Most Catholic students can probably describe the meaning of “the Universal Call to Holiness.” A simple Google search yields thousands of results on the topic in less than a second. Every parish across the country seems to offer suggestions on how to grow in holiness.

A lesser-known call is what I call “the Universal Call to Rest.” This phrase is not as easily found. In fact, a Google search of this phrase yields results with completely divergent meaning, such as “A Universal Call to Work” or “Restaurants and Dining at Universal Orlando.” So where does this call to rest come from?

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls.” (MT 11:28-29)

Missionary and Students Camping at Summer Projects

This is the Universal Call to Rest. This is what Christ calls us to: himself. Every person is weary and burdened in some way, and in this, Christ wants to draw near to us and take our burdens upon himself. In a seemingly contradictory follow-up, Christ offers his yoke to us. In this, he offers us the opportunity to enter into his work. But why would Christ want us to enter into his work if he doesn’t want us to be burdened?

Work is not burdensome. Work is in fact good. Work is what we were made for. In the book of Genesis, God places man in the garden “‘to till it and keep it’. Work is not yet a burden, but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation” (CCC 378). This collaboration is what we were made for. God invites us to enter into his creative genius. Work is not a burden. We are called to it; it is good for us. It brings us closer to the Father. In the way that working with my own dad brings me closer to him by spending time with him and seeing how he works, so can work bring us closer to God when we imitate him in his work. Doing what our father does is how we grow in love of him. We are imitating him and coming to know his heart, which is reflected in our own. We will find beauty in working without burden.

Work with God is ordered. In imitating God our Father, we should work before we rest. This example, given in Genesis, shows God working before he takes a day of rest. Rest comes after work. Work is for the sake of rest, not distorted the other way around. This is the distortion that has been seen, especially in college life. It sometimes seems that the only reason we as students sleep is so that we can wake up, go to class, and work on assignments the next day. This is work flipped on its head. Burdens arise when we distort the good. In resting to work, we become burdened. With that burden, we forget our call to true rest in Christ and pursue the simplest “rest” we can find. This often comes in the form of procrastination, a pseudo-rest that is unfulfilling. It is not a true rest because all it does is burden us more. It leaves us with a shadow hanging over our heads and no completed work. It is a distortion of the good, a distortion of rest, and is not what we are called to.

Students Playing Wiffle Ball

So how ought we to work? Again, we look to God. He is dedicated to his work and sees his work to fulfillment before he rests. He didn’t stop creating the world to watch YouTube for three hours. He completed his work and made it good, in the fullest sense of the word. This should be the Catholic approach to work. We ought to work in such a way that our end product is also good and speaks of God. There is a reason the best art, poetry, architecture, everything, is Catholic. We are sharing in God’s creative genius when we apply ourselves. In this way, we are leading others, and ourselves, closer to Christ.

Additionally, we should approach work with a “why.” Why am I working? It is easy to think “I am only working for a grade, a diploma, or an end product.” We should think “I am working to know God better.” When we study, we are forming our intellect, our way of knowing. It ultimately seeks truth. God, the fullness of truth, is who we unknowingly seek as we study. Entering into study with this mindset – one that sees work as an opportunity to come  to know the Father – will encourage us to work when we should and resist temptations to procrastinate.

The call to rest can be perplexing. “Am I working to rest or resting to work? Am I burdened by working, or am I working freely, allowing Christ to carry my burdens?” Regardless of where your life is, the Universal Call to Rest is there. Are you willing to answer it?

Sam Fulbright
Sam Fulbright
Sam Fulbright is a student at the University of Idaho, and he seems to have arrived there by divine providence. God gave him the opportunity to be with and evangelize to the cross country and track teams at the University. Sam seeks to build a vibrant, Christ-centered community on campus. Sam is from central Montana.

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