Summer is here with its invitation to come outdoors, to be in God’s healing and restorative nature. Childhood memories of picnics at state parks or simple days at the beach remind me what summer can be if I so choose. In this season of natural sensory abundance, natural drawing out-of-doors, I sense the Lord asking his people to “recline,” that is, to place themselves in a posture of mind, body and spirit open to the gifts, graces, and abundant life he wishes to give.
The Command of Christ to Recline
Have the people recline. If we never recline and receive, we can never get up and follow Him. The Lord invites us to cultivate receptivity, not to strive, to go out and to get, but to recline, trust and receive. Everything in the world and culture teaches us how to acquire what we want, what we think we need. In John 6, however, the Lord tells us to recline so that he can give us what we truly need and abundantly:
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
…”There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.”
John 6:5, 9-11
Is the Lord sowing slothfulness or entitlement? On the contrary, he himself is serving his people and showing them the way to get their true needs met. In turn, he knows that his people will naturally serve out of their healed and filled hearts. By leading us to our true entitlement of love, grace, and life in him, Jesus offers us freedom from grasping after all other false entitlements that fail to satisfy.
But first we must recline.
Summertime and the Living Is…Busy?
This summer are we merely switching gears to a different fast gear or are we getting off of that school bus altogether? This is the time to switch to “neutral” and let God create our agendas and fill in our calendars with such weighty items as these: be present to each other, be at home, be out-of-doors, be disconnected from technology, offer and receive simple hospitality.
Recently I was praying about activities for our children for the summer: how to get them engaged in service, or jobs, or things that will “keep them out of trouble” and even “build their transcripts.”
Many options appeared as possibilities, but upon pursuit, they would fall through. Taking this to prayer I interiorly heard a gentle rebuke. Instead of getting off of the school bus and getting on the summer bus the Lord directed me, as wife, mother and heart of the family to enter into the season. Summer is here and it is offered as a time of reorientation toward family, home and nature. It is time to get out-of-doors and into creation so that God can re-create us. Summer is a kind of extended Sabbath rest, a mini jubilee! Trust, enter in, and recline.
Visit Aunt Rosie!
Because of the constant duties of the school year there are many good things that get forced to the back shelf. That book on your bedside table? Read it! That subject you need to broach with your child? Broach it! That aunt you’ve been meaning to visit so that your children will get to know her before it’s too late? Visit her!
Do these things in a relaxed manner. Do not attach “have-to’s” to them. Oh, I have to get the study guide for that book and take notes. Oh, I need to research this issue further before I speak to my child about it. Oh, I have to bake something and pick up some flowers to take to Aunt Rosie. No! Stop! Just enter in and recline at the banquet the Lord has prepared! Summer is with us such a short time; our children are with us such a short time. Too often I put off doing things because I cannot do them as I believe others would do them, or as well as I “should.” So what? I am not others. I am extremely imperfect and often slap-dashed me. Actually to say that I am imperfect is laughable. I strive for imperfection, but it is very far beyond me! By trusting that the Lord loves me as I am and by just getting on with his abundant life, I recline and receive the best portion, re-creation and restoration, through the simple plans he inspires in me for our summer.
It was such a relief to receive this gentle rebuke and redirection from Jesus through prayer! He also reminded me that in the summer, as always, prayer is our anchor. Without it we can drift through summer and not receive the graces he intends us and our families to receive. Now I am no mystic or visionary, but I am a woman who prays. One aspect of prayer is simply conversation with God. In this conversation I interiorly heard this gentle redirection from my task-oriented summer plans:
Do not get busy. I will direct your days with the children. Do not explain or defend yourself, your family or your plans to anyone. Simply do My will in each day and all will be well. You already know that My will is your family’s sanctification, so do the things that aide this end: prayer, quiet, Mass, Confession, being outdoors, serving one another, being present to whomever I put in your life. I love you. Selah.
His yoke and burden are always lighter than the ones I try to strap on. He knows my frame, how weak I am, how prone to the world’s suggestions. But in his mercy he reorients me again and again to home, to nature, to family, to relationship, to trust, to recline and to receive his abundant life.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is friendship, but the busyness of life often steals that gift away. In wee ways my friends and I have stayed in touch through texting inspirational readings, passing along books, the occasional blessed lunch together, but most of all through prayer. Through that prayer we do not drift apart, but are tethered together spiritually. One fruit of this is the way Jesus imparts the same or similar messages across our hearts. With her permission I share one of my dear sister-in-Christ’s words of encouragement to a group of us recently:
There has been something that keeps coming to my heart and I wanted to share it with you. Maybe this message is just for me or maybe some of you have been feeling the tug to scale back and focus more on your family this past year. My heart keeps tugging me in the direction that this summer is to be one of The Family, just being together, scaling back on activities and electronics and learning to love those in our homes and those in our days, as Matthew Kelly says, “Carefree Timelessness.” Take walks, play games, have friends over for BBQ’s and just be together. No matter what we do over this summer, let us fill it with love in all that we do.
This dear sister-in-Christ is an absolute font of good Catholic resources. I have read some Matthew Kelly but was unfamiliar with his idea of “Carefree Timelessness.” In his book, “The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose,” Kelly writes:
Most of us know that the happiest people on the planet are those who are focused on their personal relationships. Relationships thrive under one condition: carefree timelessness. Do we gift our relationships with carefree timelessness?…We have to make carefree timelessness a priority. The nature of carefree timelessness is to be timeless. You lose track of time. Carefree timelessness is carefree. It has nothing to achieve other than the enjoyment of each other’s company. Teenagers are experts at this. How often do parents ask their teenagers when they are going out with friends, “Where are you going?” The children reply, “I don’t know!” Of course, we may consider this an unacceptable answer, but it may well be the truth. Carefree timelessness. It is the reason young people fall in love so easily. The lack of carefree timelessness is the reason the rest of us fall out of love so easily. Carefree timelessness cause us to fall in love with life and others.
What a perfect concept to try to restore in our lives during summer! To me, Carefree Timelessness says to those I love, those whom God has placed in my life, “Nothing is more important than you.” By adopting this mind frame, especially in summer, we allow ourselves to trust, recline and receive from our Lord, and in turn more fully love our families and all of those God puts in our path.
Recline to Restore
One of my favorite blesseds, Dolindo Ruotolo, an Italian priest contemporary of St. Pio, seemed to write about this restorative homefront work of the summer, as well as demonstrating the male, and also specifically, priestly job demonstrated in the above cited Gospel by the Apostles:
If you are a woman, what do you do? When God calls all souls back to life, He will call women to His apostolate, because He needs mothers. When He needs to feed the revived world, He calls upon men, because He needs fathers. He called upon Our Lady when the Church was born and promulgated; He sent the Apostles to nourish the reborn world. In His work of restoration Jesus chose women. First the world needed mothers, and then He will send priests to nourish it. Are you a woman? Then Jesus has chosen this for you. Poland, in its last battle against the Bolsheviks, won thanks to its women.
Are you a woman? Jesus has chosen you for the work of restoring the world! How can you do that this summer? Trust, recline, and receive! Are you a man? Jesus calls you to feed the revived world! How can you do that this summer? Be a father in whatever way the Lord gives you fatherhood. Most of all encourage this instinct in your wife or other women in your life to disengage from busyness and to trust, recline and receive! Together in our complementarity, we will restore Jesus’ people who can then go out and restore the world.
Blessed Mother, help us to trust, recline and receive from your Son this summer so that we may go out and restore his world in the fall! Jesus, bless our men with openness to a fatherhood that feeds and revives the world, while protecting the sanctuary of the home! Blessed Dolindo, pray for us!