Matthew 11; 25-30. Fourthteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 9th, 2017
This weekend after the Fourth of July Holiday, we find ourselves in the midst of the Summer. Summer is, of course, a time of leisure, and leisurely activities. It is time to take vacations in order to get away from work and find some rest and relaxation.
Today’s Holy Gospel is then very apropos, for it points to the true meaning of leisure. It is perhaps the most consoling gospel in all of Scripture for it contains the most reassuring invitation in all of history, one that promises us the greatest of all blessings. It is the invitation to experience a life of leisure in the Lord. It is a call to the Sabbath, which is to literally share in the rest of the Lord.
After God created the world we are told on the Seventh day, the Sabbath, He rested. But this doesn’t mean he was tired and so needed to rest; no, but that all of His work of creation was completed and so fulfilled in it’s purpose. And it’s purpose is found in man. God’s work of Creation was and is for us, the only creature that God has created for Himself. His beautiful works are for us, so that we could see the goodness of the Lord and so come to Him, in order to learn from Him to be able to rest in Him. All of creation springs from Him and all of creation is called back to Him. This is especially case with regards to man. .
Every human heart contains within it then, a restlessness which is trying to be tamed, a void which is trying to be filled. It can be a great burden for the human heart, a intense labor for the human spirit. But it is so, only to the degree that we try to do the work ourselves of finding rest. Because Man too often tries to fill the restlessness of his heart with his own effort, because Man tries to labor to find his own rest, his own leisure, his own fulfillment in this world alone, he sadly experiences an overwhelming and heavy burden, a burden that he is unable to bear and which crushes his hope and joy beneath its weight….for man will never find His rest through his own work, he will never find his rest here on this earth…here we have no everlasting home, no everlasting peace, no everlasting rest.
Jesus today gives us an answer to ease our labor and lighten our burdens to quell to the restlessness of our heart. Jesus says to us now and always, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I myself will give you rest,’ In other words Jesus himself will do the work for us. We need to merely come to Him and open ourselves up to learn from Him, all in order to receive Him. To enter into the rest of the Lord then requires a receptivity on our part not a working.
And so we discover the true meaning of leisure. Leisure time is not just time away from work; it is this yes, but it is more. Leisure is not just a time for entertainment or pleasure as if for a distraction from the burdens and restlessness of this life. No, Leisure is really a time to come before the Lord in order to rest. But not just to rest in the sense of doing nothing, but in the sense of resting in God.
To have leisure is to come before the Lord our God and hear Him say to each one of us personally, “Be still and know that I am the Lord your God…” In other words, be silent, listen and you will learn from me and find your rest. By entering into my rest, my Sabbath, you will find your meaning, your fulfillment, not in work, not in doing something or accomplishing something or becoming something in this world, but you will find your purpose in me.
For us Catholics the sabbath is Sunday. And it is at the Sunday Mass that we can literally physically come to Jesus, to learn from Him and to receive Him so as to enter into the His Sabbath rest. The Holy Mass is the work of the Lord, not our own. And it is there that we can learn from Him in the proclamation of the Gospel and receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist Jesus enters into us. And if we are receptive to Him, open to Him by the repentance of our sins and seeking His mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession; if we trust in Him by offering ourselves to Him, then we can enter into Him and experience His rest by resting in Him, being one with Him. He brings us into union with Him, we don’t bring ourselves into union with Him .
When on vacation and enjoying leisure as family, no matter where we were and sometimes even against angry opposition from extended family and friends who may have been with us, my parents made sure we made it to Sunday Mass. By their example, they taught us kids what was at the heart of a leisurely vacation. Along these same lines St John Paul II once reminded us that Vacation is not a vacation from God, but a vacation for God.
The true meaning of a vacation is to give us time away from the hustle and bustle of life and work in order to draw closer to God. In this way it is truly leisure. This is also the true meaning of Holiday. H-O-L-I-DAY comes from H-O-L-Y DAY. Certain times and days set aside and transferred to the exclusive property of God. Certain times and days to set everything aside in order to come before the Lord in order to receive all that He has to give us, and this includes His all, His whole self. It is not a time for merely for doing, but a time for being. In other words, it is a time for receptivity, to go before the Lord in order to receive the Good, the True and the Beautiful which is God Himself.
Isn’t this why so many enjoy vacation in which they spend time in the beauty and majesty of nature…because the good, true and beautiful things of this world although they are merely reflections, pale images, only shadows of the One who created them, they nonetheless point to the Creator, He Who Is Goodness, Truth and Beauty Itself. It is a profound experience to sit in silence before the majesty of God’s creation, but even more so to sit in silence before Him.
Silence is to put away the noise of the world, in order to be receptive to the Lord. Noise includes not only all that we hear, but also all that we see and read. To be receptive is to set them aside in order to come in silence before the Lord and be able to hear Him speak, to close our eyes in order to focus our gaze on the Lord, or better yet to experience His loving Gaze on us, so as to allow it to penetrate our being with His love.
Only in silence do we hear. Only in silence can we put aside the amusements of the world, its entertainments of the senses, to put aside consumption in the things of this world, not matter how good they may be, all in order to Be still with the Lord and rest in Him. “Oh Lord, I am so tired with all that I see and hear, for only in you is all that I desire, make me one in your truth…” (Thomas A Kempis). Make me one with You my God, then will I be able to truly experience leisure and to obtain rest
To contemplate God and His mystery, to meditate on Him and His goodness, reflect on Him and so to be receptive to Him and His love, these all require silence because they are acts of reception, not of doing. This idea of receptivity is hard for us, because our current age tells us that the important thing is getting something done and getting somewhere in this life. But true activity, the fullest form of activity is found not in exterior life and action but in the interior stillness and quietness of the presence of the Lord…Martha, Martha you are anxious about many things but one thing alone is needed and Mary has chosen the better part…to sit at the feet of the Master and hear Him speak and experience His loving gaze…
Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship, recently wrote a book on the great need for us moderns to rediscover silence in order to have rest. The book is entitled: “The power of Silence against the Dictatorship of noise.” He writes, “When creation knows how to place itself in silence, God makes His voice heard.” The Cardinal says, “Silence not for the sake of just absence from noise but to be still before the Lord and to receive His rest. Silence is the what creates the environment which makes it possible to welcome the incarnation…to welcome the God that comes among us as one of us in order to be revived by us so that we may enter into profound communion, union with Him.
In his book, and in many of his talks, the Cardinal points out as well the great importance and necessity of times of silence in the Liturgy, silence so that we can hear the Lord speak to us and open ourselves up to God’s initiative and accept all grace which comes from Him. At Holy Mass we are not before the beauty of God’s creation found in nature but we are before the Majesty of the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist; how much more then we should be silent before this majesty.
This reminds us how important and necessity are times of silence in the Holy Mass, so that we can hear the Lord speak to us and teach us and open ourselves up to God’s initiative and accept all grace which comes from Him. At Holy Mass we are not before the beauty of God’s creation found in nature but we are before the Majesty of the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist; how much more then we should be silent before this majesty.
In so many ways, we have allow the noise of the world to enter into the Sacred Liturgy. The Holy Mass as been filled with a cacophony of unworthy music, talking, instructing, hand gestures and Hand shaking. Any times of silence during the Holy Mass are met with uneasiness and questioning, “did father forget his place…”. And Sacred Words which were in the past only said in a low voice (vox secreta) because they are so holy and sacred and directed directly to the face of the Heavenly Father, are now blared out over the loud Speaker and said while looking out over the people. We fill up every second with some type of noise, even after we have receive the Body of the Lord in Holy Communion.
And silence is particularly important after Holy Communion when we have literally received the Lord, sacred silence, so we can listen to Him, He Who is now in our own body and soul. Silence is needed in fact, whenever we are before the Eucharistic Lord in the Tabernacle so that we can hear Him and allow others to hear Him speak…this is why we were taught rightly, never to talk in Church because the Lord is there in the Tabernacle, before, during and after Holy Mass. Our sisters at the hospital know this and why they placed on the sign out side of this chapel a reminder to please keep silence in this sacred place always, because the Lord is here and it is place of silent rest. In the halls of this hospital there are signs from the sisters to keep quiet in the halls because patients are resting, so too we must keep silence in the chapel because people come here to rest in the silence of the Lord and we should not disturb them by noise.
And finally, we have made the Holy Mass into something we do—the work of the people instead of something the Lord does—the work of the Lord; it is in so many ways no longer a place of rest, of being with the Lord but instead a place of “doing” of “working”. The active or actual participation called for by the Fathers of the Vatican II has been misinterpreted as external action—the people all have to do something; we need to find an active role for as many of the people as possible. But the Holy Mass is the place of Sabbath rest; it is again, we were are called to come to the Lord, learn from Him for He is humble and gentle of heart. At the Holy He does the work for us (He died on the cross not us), we just have to be still and know that He is the Lord. Our work is one of internal participation, it is the work of receptivity; that is of opening our hearts, offering our hearts and then waiting patiently and silently on the Lord. It is He who refreshes us, not we who refresh ourself; it is He who lifts us up to the Father through His Sacrifice on the Cross and through the gift of of Himself in the Holy Eucharist, not we who lift ourselves up by our own goodness and self-righteousness.
So many in our world are so tired, so many in our world long for rest. Many unknowingly try to find rest in the all the wrong places and things. So many others have left the temple of the Lord and no longer go to Holy Mass and so no longer enter into the Sabbath rest of the Lord in order to be refreshed by Him. As more and more Catholics leave the rest of the Lord the world it self become noiser, more restless, more tired. Only we can lead it to the rest it longs for, the Holy Mass, which is the eternal Sabbath made present on earth and which leads those who come to into the eternal Rest of the Lord. True Leisure is to be found only in the Lord, Our true Rest is only in the Lord. “Our hearts are truly restless until they rest in you O Lord” (St Augustine).
Let us turn to Our Lady to help us to learn to become silent. ”Mary, Mother of God teach me to be still before the Lord. Then listening, I’ll understand God’s Holy Word, so as to receive more fully His Holy Word become flesh in the Holy Eucharist, in order to live more perfectly His Holy Word in my life, one with His Holy Word, which is Jesus, bringing His mercy and love to the world so laboring under its burden of sin. Holy Mary mother of Silence, Mother of our Rest, pray for us. Amen.