By Therese Benz
For students, every year summer cannot come soon enough. I can’t remember a time, whether I was in grade school, high school, or now college, when I did not motivate myself to survive all the last papers, projects, and tests with the consolation that as soon as I was done with them, summer would arrive and I would finally be free.
Throughout the school year I idealize summer. Just one aspect of this stems from my love of reading. I always try to write down or remember books that people recommend so that I can read them as soon as I have enough time, which means, you guessed it, in the summer. But it isn’t just reading. There are friends I plan on spending time with in the summer, movies I want to watch, so many things that I think I will have time for in the summer.
But a curious thing happens to me every year. When summer checks in, I tend to check out. I have already been on my summer break for four weeks this year, and looking back on those four weeks, it’s true I have spent time with friends, read books, and watched some of the movies I wanted to, but there has also been more than one day when I spent multiple hours laying in my bed, scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest, feeling as if there were things I could be doing, but unable to find the motivation. It is so easy to default to sitting around, just looking at my phone. I’m not trying to say that relaxation is a crime, but that there is a difference between intentional relaxation and a lack of motivation.
I think purpose and intentionality are the two things that I tend to try and live without in the summer. Because there are so few deadlines in the summer, if any, I can continue to push back anything I had planned on doing from today to “tomorrow”, launching myself into a never- ending spiral of procrastination and passivity. I mean really, I would think if I had something like 70 days to do a single homework assignment I could not possibly end up doing it the night before. And yet, my high school experience can testify otherwise. This passivity or lack of intention is obviously a problem.
However, there is a two-word phrase in a passage from the bible which presents a way of living that is quite the opposite of this passivity.
In Luke’s account of the Visitation, Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth immediately after discovering that she is to be the mother of Jesus. The encounter between these two cousins is profound, and they say many beautiful things, but there are two specific words which describe Mary’s actions which I find particularly moving: she goes to Elizabeth “with haste” (RSV Luke 1:39).
Mary does not dawdle. She is not frozen by indecision, she is not lukewarm, she is not passive. Mary acts “with haste”.
There is another reason I think that this is beautiful; Mary is doing something ordinary. The fact that she visited her cousin who was expecting a child is not strange or unusual, but it becomes an occasion of grace because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, as is the rest of her life. This is where Mary’s intentionality and purpose came from.
Like Mary at the Visitation, we also can live in the power of the Holy Spirit and act with that same intentionality. Throughout our daily lives, whenever we play with our younger siblings or sweep the floor for our family after dinner, it does not have to be passive, but rather can be elevated to an occasion of grace. Pope John Paul II once said when speaking about the Visitation, “In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present”.
If we truly choose to live imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ, it might not change how our lives look on the outside, but it will certainly elevate our ordinary, daily actions into occasions of authentic grace and love, and give us the motivation to decide to act based on love, rather than based on how we feel or what would make us the most comfortable.
And so, as we all continue through our summer, perhaps today, instead of wondering how we should spend our time, we should pray to the Holy Spirit for His guidance, and when we see what should be done today, rather than dragging our feet, we can by His grace, act “with haste”.