Hebrews 4:1-5, 11
There is quite a contrast laid out for us in our scriptural readings for today, a contrast that fits in well with what is going on around us these days. In our first reading, in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we hear a very enticing theme, almost an invitation to "enter into the rest" that the Lord wants to give us. It seems Paul is keenly aware of how their "ancestors" were not obedient or mindful of God’s action in their midst and, consequently, could not enter into the rest that the Lord promised them. This idea of "rest" is pretty attractive to me, especially these days after very hectic Christmas and New Years observances. And here we are beginning a very busy retreat season once again, one that will barely ease up until mid-summer! Yes, I would love nothing more than to enter into that rest if only for a little while.
But with our Gospel comes the contrast that I referred to above. Far from portraying a setting of serenity and calm in our Gospel we see that sometimes discipleship can be hectic, nearly frantic if we are chasing after the Lord. And this is especially true if, in the chase. we are running with the hope that he would bestow upon us and our friend healing and forgiveness. In the Gospel, the crowds find out that Jesus is in town; and four good people come running with their paralytic friend (we can only imagine it was someone they love dearly or wanted very badly to help.) And so sincere was their effort that they made their way to the rooftop and began to dismantle a space in the tiling so that they could lower their friend into the saving, healing presence of Jesus! Imagine this scene. Imagine the owner of the home as he sees his roof suddenly give way to clouds above and tile ripping hands hard at work! So much for rest, at least for the Lord! It made me realize that discipleship is about much more than rest, serenity, and peace. Following the Lord is sometimes like trying to push ones way through the crowd just to be in his loving presence. And even then we may have to make our way to the roof and tear it apart just to get in! And then, wonder of wonders, there is not only the healing that Jesus can give but even more profoundly, there is that deep inner gift of forgiveness. Now there is a healing worth running for!
So, these days when we seem to wonder what ever happened to that rest the Lord promises those who follow him, perhaps we should remember this moment in Capernaum, and this hectic, crowd-shoving and noisily shouting bunch of seekers, searching for the Lord, searching for whatever he might awaken in their hearts. That is just where we find ourselves, too, right there in the middle of the horde trying so very hard to be disciples, wondering what ever happened to the rest and serenity, but thrilled to know that in his presence, even with the craziness of life, comes healing and inner peace.
Fr. Pat Brennan, CP is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.