Modern man would be far happier if he would take a little time off to meditate. As the Old Testament prophet said: "'Peace, peace,' they say, though there is no peace. The are odious; they have done abominable things, yet they are not at all ashamed, they know not how to blush" (Jeremia 6: 14-15). The Gospel tells us that Our Blessed Lord withdrew HImself from the crowds into the wilderness and prayed. Martha, who was too busy about many things, was told that only one thing was necessary. A life of faith with peace of soul can be cultivated only by periodical isolation from the cares of the world.
There are various kinds of weariness: weariness of the body, which can be satisfied under any tree or even on a pillow of stone; weariness of the brain, which needs the incubation of rest for new thought to be born; but hardest of all to satisfy is weariness of heart, which can be healed only by communion with God.
Silence helps speech; retirement helps thinking. A contemporary of Abraham Lincoln tells us that he spent three weeks with Lincoln just after the Battle of Bull Run: "I could not sleep. I was repeating the part that I was to play in a public performance. The hour was past midnight. Indeed, it was coming near to dawn, when I heard low tones coming from the room where the President slept. The door was partly open. I instinctively walked in and there I saw a sight which I shall never forger. It was the President, kneeling beside an open Bible. The light was turned low in the room. His back was turned toward me. For a moment I was silent, as I stood looking in amazement and wonder. Then he cried out in tones so pleading and sorrowful: 'O God Who heard Solomon in the night that he prayed for wisdom, hear me; I cannot lead this people, I cannot guide the affairs of this nation without Your help. I am poor and weak and sinful. O God, Who heard Solomon when he cried to You, hear me and save this nation.'"
One wonders how many of our public officials in the great burdens that are laid upon them ever cry to God for help. When the United Nations held its first meeting in San Francisco, fearful that we might offend the atheists, it was decided to keep a minute of silence instead of praying fearlessly to God to illumine and guide the nations. It was in a moment of Peter's failure in fishing that Our Lord said: "Launch out into the deep" (Luke 5: 4). It is in the times of our failures that the soul must draw away from the shores.
What the Savior promises in the retirement is "rest for your souls." Rest is a gift; it is not earned; it is not the payment for finishing a job; it is the dowry of grace. Greed, envy, wealth and avarice think of rest in terms of the good things of the world; true rest is the stilling of passions, the control of wavering ambitions, the joy of a quiet conscience. There is no rest until life has been made intelligible. Most of the restlessness of souls today comes from not knowing why they are here, or where they are going, and they refuse to take time out to solve that problem. Until it is solved, nothing is solved. There is not even much sense in going on living unless one knows why he is living.
Driving power is always associated with inner repose; other energy is explosiveness and imprudent action. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. The renewal of strength is less physical than it is spiritual. A tired soul makes a tired body more often than a tired body makes a tired soul. The rest which Christianity enjoins is less cessation from work than it is freedom from the anxieties that come from guilt and avarice. Spiritual refreshment in prayer, retreat, and meditation are the most potent influences for restoring harmony to the thousands of nervous patients. Life, like music, must have its rhythm of silence as well as sound.
The rest which retirement and contemplation give is not just a rest from toil, but it is even a rest in toil. The peace of Christ is not a hot-house plant; it raises its head for the storms; it is peace for the battle and joy of conscience for those who assail conscience. The world cannot give it; the world cannot take it away. It is not given by outward circumstance; it rules in the heart; it is an inward state. To be spiritually minded is to have rest.