Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday in the First Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Our Place of Rest

Readings: Hebrews 4:1-5, 11; Psalm 78:3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8; Mark 2:1-12

Our first reading continues yesterday’s meditation on psalm 95 by focusing on the verse that speaks of the place of rest that God has prepared for all the faithful. The reading equates this place to God’s rest on the seventh day of the creation story as told in the book of Genesis. This heavenly rest is the awesome destiny that awaits all the faithful. The reading then concludes with the exhortation: we must therefore do everything we can to reach the place of rest…

This is a message that many of us need and desire to hear, especially because we live in an age of great busyness. In addition to the busyness of external activity which frequently burdens us with so much stress that many of us can hardly breathe, there is also the busyness of heart – the various worries and anxieties – that afflicts many, both young and old, working or retired alike. Do we not desire the consolation offered by our readings, as they assure us that we are destined to enjoy eternal rest. But what might this place of rest mean for us? What do we need to do to get there? And do we necessarily have to wait till we get to heaven?

It’s important that we first avoid misunderstanding. This place of rest is not a place that we can get to on our own steam. To try to do so would only be to add yet another unbearable burden on our own shoulders, much like the pharisees and scribes did. Although we are called to do everything to get to where we wish to go, the focus – as we heard in the response to the psalm – is not really on our own efforts but on the deeds of the Lord. For isn’t there some truth to what the scribes were thinking in today’s gospel: who can forgive sins but God alone?

Yet God has already done something. God has already sent us Christ the Son, in whom our heavenly rest has actually come to us. We notice, for example, what Jesus does for the paralytic. Jesus heals him physically and spiritually and bids him go off home. Through the ministry of Jesus, the paralytic is helped to rise from his stretcher and to find his way to his true place of rest, his heavenly home. In the experience of the paralytic we see how what we cannot do for ourselves God does for us in Christ. What we need to do, then, is not so much to save ourselves or our loved ones – we cannot, however hard we may try – but to come to Jesus and to remain in Him. We need to be willing – as the four friends of the paralytic were – even to strip the roofs off houses, to vacate or let go of those transitory places and things in which we may be trying to find fulfillment and rest. We need to spare no effort to put Christ at the center of our lives, to make Him and his values our number one priority. So that even in the midst of our everyday preoccupations we might already experience in Christ an anticipation of our final heavenly resting place.

Today, what are we being invited to do to find our place of rest?

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