The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Saturday, February 4, 2012

True rest

Faith is the pierless bridge
supporting what we see
unto the scene that we do not--
too slender for the eye.
Emily Dickinson

Sunday, February 5, 2012
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39

“Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you,” St. Augustine prays in the opening lines of his Confessions. This famous quote sums up our relationship with God. Nothing but God alone satisfies the deepest longing within our hearts, a longing for reunion with our Creator. During this life, we often mistake this longing for something of much lesser value, and misplace the object of our hope. But deep down—whether we acknowledge it or not—we yearn for God, echoing the words of the Psalmist: “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:2).

Job’s lament in today’s first reading is the same: “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” He has lost everything of earthly value: his possessions, his family, and his health. Though he says he is “without hope,” his very cry to God expresses hope. A hungry infant cries expecting to be heard and satisfied. True hopelessness is deathly silent. As St. Paul writes, “Who hopes for what one sees?” (Romans 8:24)

So, we are weak and weary, but we hope in God, who comes to meet us in the person of Christ. To the weak, he becomes weak, to win over the weak—just as St. Paul followed in his steps and modeled for us. Jesus took on our human weakness to give us strength, restore our hope, and provide the rest for which we long. It is for this purpose that he came into this world and continues to dwell in it through the Body of Christ, the Church, in which God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit. Just as with Simon’s mother-in-law in today’s Gospel, Christ approaches us in Word and Sacrament, grasps us by the hand, and helps us up.

In the Gospel at Saturday’s Mass (Mark 6:30-34), Jesus invites his disciples: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The same invitation is extended to us, as well as to others through us. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” he says in Matthew’s Gospel (11:28).

We may indeed lament along with Job, saying, “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” However, the word dawn is the key to that sentence. Dawn brings light, hope, and the promise of the resurrection—new life. The dawn is none other than Christ himself—God Among Us. It is for him that our restless hearts long. Christ is our Light. “I am the light of the world,” he tells us. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus, rising very early before dawn, goes off to a deserted place to pray. It is the day after the traditional Sabbath—Sunday, the day of the resurrection to come. And what happens? He is pursued, and when his disciples find him, they say, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus responds: “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” He offers us rest, coming to meet us on the Day of Resurrection, giving us life by giving his very self. God does this. He is our rest.

This is the same message foretold and fulfilled throughout all of Scripture. It is the same simple message repeated in various forms in every posting on this blog. It is the same because it is true, Truth itself, and nothing but the Truth matters. And when we allow ourselves to discover and truly embrace that Truth, we become its stewards--just like St. Paul. To the weak, we become weak, to win over the weak. We become all things to all, for the sake of the gospel. When our restless hearts find rest in God alone, we discover renewed strength and purpose, arising like Simon's mother-in-law to serve those around us. In gratitude for what we have received, we then seek to provide rest to others--free of charge.

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