The Responsibility to Relax

In the beginning, God created the universe, and then He took time to rest (Genesis 2:2-3). We should think about following this example of rest after work. Rest and relaxation not only allows us to recover from work already done but it also gives us an opportunity to recharge for the tasks ahead of us; it is good for us to enjoy vacation!

While the work we do is in no way as grave as the work that our Lord did and continues to do, it is important. As the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace explains in Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “Work confirms the profound identity of men and women created in the image and likeness of God.” The document goes on to point out that we work because God has commanded that we do so, and in response to the needs of our family and of the larger world. Our work is part of our participation in Creation—we produce and are creative through the work we do. Additionally, working gives us the means to provide for ourselves and for our families. As St. Pope John Paul II explains in Centesimus Annus, now “more than ever, work is work with others and work for others”—it is a means of social exchange. Our work’s productiveness makes it rewarding. For us mere mortals, though, being on duty in service of the needs of our community and to support our own needs can be taxing. We all need a break once in a while!

Fortunately for us, God not only sets an example of reflecting but also expects us to do the same. Because we are so focused on working and fulfilling our obligations, truly taking a rest can be difficult for us. However, taking a vacation is also among our responsibilities!

It is not just common sense that resting is important; it is also good theology. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace points out that “As God ‘rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had done’ (Gen 2:2), so too men and women, created in his image, are to enjoy sufficient rest and free time that will allow them to tend to their family, cultural, social and religious life.” While working hard allows us to set a good example for our children, spending time with them is even more important. Time off allows us to pass on traditions, create lasting memories, refresh our outlook, and enhance our creativity. It also prevents us from settling into the ennui of the sameness of everyday life. Time enjoyed is time that increases our gratitude and joy. Taking a vacation serves not only practical purposes but also spiritual purposes!

Don’t be afraid to take a break! Day trips, a stay away from home, and even relaxing at home alone or with family and friends can provide refreshment and lead to creative thought. Whether short or long, a change of scenery—or even just a change of pace—will help you to approach life with renewed purpose and energy. Just as much as work is our responsibility, relaxation is, too!

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