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We are meant to be human be-ings

Not human do-ings

As the pastor of a parish community with a large number of young families, I can’t help but be amazed and a little dismayed by how busy family life seems to be these days. When I listen to the schedule of activities that keeps many families with children on the go each day, every day, I wonder how anyone could manage to keep up such a level of activity. I can also begin to understand why there is often great rejoicing when the oldest child is finally able to drive, thereby taking some of the chauffeuring load off mom’s or dad’s plate.

The hectic and overfull pace of family life is reflective of an even deeper, more troubling reality. Our consumer-oriented and production-based culture has led us to believe that in order to achieve success we must be on the go all the time. Yet, as someone remarked to me recently, “We’re meant to be human be-ings, not human do-ings.”

The quest for a full life does not mean that we have to fill every waking moment with activity. Sometimes, pausing, resting or doing nothing can be activity enough. Perhaps we have allowed ourselves to become confused. Does having the fullness of life mean that we fill our lives up – with toys, gadgets, activities and distractions?

When I was a child, growing up in Saginaw, there was an unwritten agreement that at least one weekday evening per week and every Sunday would be kept free of school-based or other extracurricular activities. The agreement, which worked for many years, was in place to ensure that there would be time for church and family-centered activities. What happened to those days? I suspect the agreement was tossed out in favor of football, soccer and all the other little activity and productivity gods we have let infiltrate our lives. At the same time, when was the last time parents banded together to say “No!” to the overactive schedules of their children? After all, it seems to me that coaches and league organizers are working for the parents who pay the fees for their children’s activities.

Is all this just the raving of a silly celibate? I hope not, and please don’t get me wrong. I believe that a balance of sports or other extracurricular activities are important for a well-rounded life, but there is a difference between being well-rounded and allowing ourselves to be over-scheduled. I benefitted from a wide range of after-school activities when I was a kid, but never more than one at a time, and mom and dad always made sure that there was plenty of time for family activities, church on Sunday and rest. After all, we are human be-ings, not human do-ings.

Thankfully, God, in His wisdom, has provided us with the perfect antidote to the busyness trap we have allowed ourselves to fall into. It has a simple name: the Sabbath (Sunday, for us Christians), and is available everywhere for free.

Take one whole Sabbath once a week. Do not break it into smaller parts. Begin by thanking God for the Sabbath by attending Mass with family and friends. The Sabbath may be taken in combination with Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap – or both. It should be shared with those you love – and even those you don’t. If you cannot take it on Sunday, choose another day and take it then. Its effects will be immediate. These effects may include, but are not limited to: a deeper love for God; less crabbiness at home and at work; a desire to take long walks on warm afternoons; a greater appreciation for God’s goodness to us; a deeper love for one another; the ability to be completely unpredictable at times; a renewed sense of purpose; a greater dedication to service; a better appreciation of the good times; greater resources to deal with the bad times; and many more that cannot be listed here.

God gives us the Sabbath. God knows we need it. And so our journey in FAITH continues.