August 31, 2017
You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery.
Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,
we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and so is God,
how devoutly and justly and blamelessly
we behaved toward you believers.
As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children,
exhorting and encouraging you and insisting
that you walk in a manner worthy of the God
who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.
And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,
that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God,
which is now at work in you who believe.
-1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
- Matthew 11:28-30
In scripture and revelation, our Lord has made many promises to his people, but I think "rest" is one of the most interesting.
Sometimes it helps me to imagine what a god could be like to help me understand how amazing our God actually is, so let's try a thought experiment. Our daily, imperfect human life fills our minds with expectations and "ought to's". So at the risk of sounding presumptuous, let me ask a question: What might we think an omnipotent God, ought to provide for their people? Protection, maybe. Healing. Deliverance. Prosperity, justice, maybe even sometimes revenge? At least in my mind, the concept of rest never enters into the equation.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Catholic Church is the fact that it is deeply in touch with our human needs. For example, the Church meets our human needs for learning and understanding through the sacramentality of our faith that gives us sensory experiences to savor and contemplate. In a similar appeal to our human nature, Jesus speaks into our desire for true rest (emphasis on "true"; I don't think the Redeemer of the World is talking about binging on Breaking Bad here). Exhaustion, or at the very least fatigue, are such universal experiences that I think the concept of rest and internal peace is a great starting point when evangelizing to non-believers or those who have drifted away.
How incredibly human is it to yearn to be at rest? And how wonderful that we have a savior who not only promises forgiveness, but rest? Peace? They all go hand in hand, certainly, but simply to know that Jesus wants us to truly rest in the Father is such a comfort.
The key to understanding and internalizing these concepts comes from today's first reading. Paul simultaneously speaks of toil and drudgery and unceasing praise! How incongruous these two sound to our sensibilities. Yet, as a former campus minister, I can confirm that you can be both exhausted and grateful and eager to delve further into God's work. Those are very special, anointed times that will live on in my memory for the rest of my life
Let us pray that our work may be united to the Lord. I know that few of us are in positions of direct ministry, and it can be tempting to believe that our work is too far removed from the Word to rejuvenate and regenerate our spirits in the way St. Paul describes. But if the words of Jesus in Matthew 11 were not meant for every single one of us, He would not have said them.
Let us put on Christ, take His yoke upon us, and rest easy.
Praised be Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.