In the Sunday homily yesterday, the priest preached about the relationship between the body and the soul, taking this line of scripture from the Gospel reading as a starting place: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (MT 10:26-33) He talked about how in our culture we’re pretty good at taking care of the body and we know how to do that – but that we often don’t put enough emphasis on taking care of the soul, and as human beings we are both body and soul, two distinct elements that together make up the totality of the human person.
If you’re like most of us, you’re resting and relaxing somehow this summer. You’re giving your body a break by taking Sunday naps, cooling off at the pool or Barton Springs, maybe having a Casey’s snow-cone and even going on a jog around town lake. Those are beautiful things! And it is so so important to also take care of our bodies and to get enough rest, especially if your life is tied somehow to the intensity of the academic calendar – if students, teachers and families don’t rest their tired bodies over the summer, there’s little chance they’ll be ready to go when August rolls around.
But what about the health of the soul? Are you giving your soul a summer too? Our soul also needs rest! Another priest I know once compared praying in Adoration to sun-bathing (I hope that made you laugh out loud or at least smirk!) in the sense that we lay our souls before the Son’s rays (lame smirk again….) and let our souls soak in God’s love and mercy. But it is true that there is a certain inner relaxation that happens when we let ourselves “bathe” in God’s graces, a sort of total resting from the inside out that doesn’t happen anywhere else. And there’s a reason for that:
You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” – St Augustine of Hippo
Our souls were made to REST in God! How are you resting in God this summer? Sometimes we imagine that resting our souls means doing some grandiose impossible thing like sitting on a mountain top or going away on retreat. And while I’m a total fan of mountain tops (especially those in Big Bend National Park!), I really think resting our souls this summer is much simpler than that. What are small, every day ways that you can let your soul have a summer in this year?
You would really have to think about what works for you. Maybe there’s some spiritual book on your wish list you could finally buy, or maybe it’s asking a friend to watch your kids so you and your spouse can go to daily mass and lunch together one day, or maybe it’s simply staying up 15 extra minutes when the house is quiet, lighting a candle and journaling for a little bit. One of my favorite things to do (besides “sun bathing” in Adoration!) is to get up early and sit on the front porch with some good spiritual reading and a cup of coffee. And I know that my soul also rests when I talk a silent walk in the woods near my house and just let my mind sort through the day.
And if you’re a parent and thinking this is impossible – I’d invite you to be creative with your kids on how to go about this.
Children and teens need summer soul moments too! If your kids are a little bit older, what about an hour of quiet reading time? Or art? Or reading something like The Chronicles or Narnia to them before bed? Or a nature walk? As a teen, I loved to go up on our balcony and journal in peace and quiet! And I wonder what good ideas your kids have?
You might even put in some summer soul moments into your regular vacation – like taking a spiritual book to the beach with you, or seeking out one of those daily masses or prayer chapels wherever you are traveling. Even praying a rosary in the car together can be like breath of fresh air for your soul – especially when you make it personal by letting each person say their intentions, or offering a personal thanksgiving for a blessing or something like that with each decade.
And what about when that school year starts again? Our soul is primarily where our life energy comes from. The priest this morning talked about how “soul” and “spirit” are the same word in the Greek bible, and can be compared to the wind – that although we can’t see it, like the wind in the trees, it is that force within us that moves us, it is the life flow through us from God. We can sleep and exercise and eat organic all we want (again, those things are important), but if we haven’t thought about the meaning of our days or stopped to reflect on God’s little signs of love in our lives, or given our souls a moment of silence now and then – all that bodily care won’t amount to much – because are as human beings as much, much more than just our bodies.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)
From his inmost being…that is the soul! And it is a challenge to carve out this time and to be faithful to the plans you have made – but I have a hunch that as soon as you give your soul a few moments of summer, you’ll want to keep going back for more. Many blessings to you this summer, and may your soul be renewed in the mercy and love of God. Go dip your toes in that Living Water!