In this second week in Advent, Jesus gives us an invitation to, “Come to me” and find rest. When I picture what this invitation offers, especially during this busy time of preparations for Christmas, it feels like stepping out of the chaos and into Peace. Yet, this rest often seems elusive to me and I wonder if I know what I am looking for?
The rest Jesus is offering according to British spiritual teacher, Caryll Houselander: “Rest is not idleness and is not relaxation; it is a culmination, a fullness of gathered peace, like the fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide.” Houselander further suggests that like a baby sleeping in its mothers arms in total trust and abandonment, “rest is a communion of love between them.” (Magnificat: 1/21/15)
These two verses have been likened to the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament (Sirach 51: 23-26). They are nestled in what is labeled as “Israel’s Opposition” where Jesus is particularly challenged by scholars to reconcile both his and his disciples’ behavior with their interpretation of the Law. Just the verse before Jesus speaks in praise of his Father’s will for handing all things over to him. (v.25-27) What strikes me as I ponder the text is whether Jesus himself is feeling burdened by the demands of life—the unnecessary demands of life heaped on by others. Might he be reminding himself of the same truths available to him? We often forget that Jesus was fully human; that is what makes these verses come alive as the chapter ends with this beautiful call of his loving heart bidding all to… Come, rest.
Jesus found his strength in communion with his Father; in aligning his will with his Father. His humility teaches me that I am humus—clay in the hands of the Potter. We are shaped and molded through our life’s circumstances—our crosses—by our Father who loves us. So, whether you are burdened by circumstances beyond your control, or are burdening yourself—or more correctly, your Ego-self is dictating how things should be, the invitation is always the same; learn from Jesus. Change your frame. In the words of the first reading; “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will not grow weary…” (Isaiah 40:31)
If we choose, we can find rest in the quiet and stillness of a gathering flood tide—slowly moving into a deep loving communion with Jesus. We will discover that it is not anything we do, it is simply a matter of Grace entering our lives.
“I open my mouth and speak of her: gain, at no cost, wisdom for yourselves. Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sir 25-26)
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, through your divine love, bring new life into our hearts. Amen
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.