Summer holidays are in the air. Our weather is warm and sunny. Days are long and bright, airports are busier than usual, strawberries and ice-cream is popular again - all announcing that summer is here. The schools have closed until late August or early September, and university exams are all but over. Families are making plans to get away to the sea-side or take a break. Despite what St. Paul seems to be saying in Romans 8:9, 11-13, we really do owe a debt to the flesh, in the sense that we have a responsibility to care for the bodies with which God has blessed us. Our bodies, minds and spirits all need to be renewed and refreshed from time to time, and, for most of us, summer is the traditional time for that. Paul’s focus is on a theme he often repeats: If we engage in dull, destructive, repulsive pastimes, we’ll naturally end up dull, deadened and repulsive. And that’s hardly an expression of appreciation to the God who loved us into life. The debt we owe to the flesh is to revive its energy, to bolster it up, to prepare it to encounter life’s stress.
In Mt. 11, 25-30, we hear Jesus’ invitation to rest. And it’s an invitation that is supported by his action. The Gospel writers make frequent references to his going off by himself to rest and pray. Without rest and renewal, we do, in fact, reduce our productivity, and become irritable, prickly and testy. All too often, rest and holidays fall into the category of privilege rather than necessity. I am reminded of a cartoon that depicted a family on a beach outing, all in swim wear - dad is sitting under an umbrella tapping away at his laptop, mum is seriously talking on her I-phone, and two teenage children are fully engrossed in electronic games. Even on holidays, we feel the need to be constantly connected with the business and people we have left behind, through emails, texting, What’s App, Facebook and other social media. Perhaps we might need to consider that rest for the weary and heavily-laden is as much a matter of justice as of anything else.