Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dies Domini: Entering God's Rest

Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Caravaggio

Entering Into God's Rest

      The world is running at a breakneck speed, whirling ever more rapidly out of our control, drawing us breathlessly after it trying to keep pace, keep up, keep on going.  We are desperate for a moment's peace, for a moment of true rest.  We are desperate because we were created to experience rest and relationship, both of which are absolutely necessary for our physical and spiritual health.

As we discussed in the first post, God's rest is not inactivity, but rather it is the completion of God's work of creation, the "fullness of what has been accomplished."--Dies Domini, 11  Moreover, in the creation account, this "rest" is associated with the sacrament of matrimony.  Blessed John Paul II relates the idea of God's contemplative gaze of His finished work to the marriage covenant:

Blessed John Paul II

It [the contemplative gaze] is a gaze which already discloses something of the nuptial shape of the relationship which God wants to establish with the creature made in his own image, by calling that creature to enter a pact of love.--Dies Domini, 11

We long for rest because we long for relationship with our GodWe experience our separation from Him as a restlessness of heart, as St. Augustine said:

St. Augustine

 God, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You.
                                          --The Confessions

Entering into relationship with God means we are entering into His rest:

Blessed John Paul II
 All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him.  But man's relationship with God also demands time of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person.  "The Lord's Day" is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation.--Dies Domini, 15

Throughout Scripture, this idea of resting in a covenant relationship with God (which is best understood and imaged as a marriage relationship) is reinforced.  When Israel is rescued by God from bondage in Egypt,  God calls her to follow Him into the wilderness as His bride:

Jeremiah, Michelangelo
 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Go and proclaim in the hearing of  Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,
     I remember the devotion of your youth,
     your love as a bride,
     how you followed me in the wilderness,
     in a land not sown.
     Israel was holy to the Lord,
     the first fruits of His harvest.  --Jeremiah 2:1-2

As Dies Domini states, as we meditate upon the meaning and purpose of Sunday as a day holy to the Lord, we need to "recognize in both the Old and the New Testament the nuptial intensity which marks the relationship between God and his people."  The encyclical goes on to quote this beautiful passage from Hosea:

The Prophet Hosea
I will make for you a covenant on that day....I will make you lie down in safety.  I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord--Hosea 2:18-20
God does remember the faithfulness of the people who follow Him consistently, they are His beloved spouse, but He also has some harsh words for those who rebel and committed the sin of idolatry.  The prophets compared idolatry to adultery because it was a violation of a covenant union between God and His people:

The Prophet Hosea

 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord."--Hosea 1:2

Idolatry, or placing any thing else above God as the primary focus of our life, is a sin as grave and mortal as adultery.  God desires, however, to bring us into a right relationship with Him, a true covenant union, by the forgiveness of our sins.  As we enter into that relationship which has been restored through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord,  we enter also into God's rest:

Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them [those who did not believe God and rebelled in the wilderness after the Exodus]; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.  For we who have believed enter that rest...So then there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.--Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-11 

Entering into God's rest means abiding in Him, being united to Him, abandoning ourselves to His mercy, and trusting in Him to sanctify and save us as we follow Him unreservedly.   He Himself commanded us:

 Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing...As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.--John 15: 4-5, 9-10

 So, dearest readers, let us abide in Him.  This Sunday make God your priority.  Trust Him.  Rest in Him.  Know that He loves you more than you can ever possibly imagine or dream.  Spend time with your Beloved in prayer and praise.  So often we think we do not have enough time, but listen to the words of Jesus speaking through St. Faustina, the saint through whom He revealed His message of Divine Mercy:

 [Souls] have time for everything, but they have no time to come to Me for graces.  --Diary of Divine Mercy, 367

Jesus longs to give us graces and mercy; He longs to be united to us and to love us.  Are you feeling that your life is harried?  Unfruitful?  Not moving in the right direction no matter how hard you work? Then turn back to Jesus--rest in Him, make time for Him, "for apart from Me, you can do nothing."

Pope Benedict XVI
In the creation account the sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God's freedom, in God's rest, and thus in God's peace.  To celebrate  the  sabbath means to celebrate the covenant.  It means to return to the source and to sweep away all the defilement that our work has brought with it. --Pope Benedict XVI, In the Beginning, p. 3

"I am the vine, and you are the branches."

Ideas for sanctifying Sunday: Sunday as a day of relationship and rest:

**Go to Mass (are you seeing a theme???)

**Spend 15-30 minutes reading and meditating on a portion of the Gospels, maybe this Sunday's Gospel reading.  It doesn't matter how many verses you read, what is important is to put yourself in the scene with Jesus and think and pray about what He is saying to you right now in your life.

**Spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration if you can get away from home for a few minutes, or spend a few extra minutes if you can right after Mass.  If not, spend time in silent adoration of your Redeemer.  You may have a special place, like a porch or a chair near a favorite window, where you can be quiet for a few moments and just love God.

**Don't do any heavy work or commercial work (like working on business-related issues).  Try to avoid housework and shopping on this day. 

**Do pleasure gardening (this is not weeding!)

 **Learn and sing hymns of praise together as a family.  This joyous activity unites us to one another and to our Lord.  An artistic and beautiful free resource for both the Sunday Gospel readings of the Easter season and the words of traditional Easter hymns is available at Family in Feast and Feria for you to download. 

**If you do not feel you are in a good relationship with God, spend time thinking and praying about what steps you can take to restore your union with Him.  Consider examining your conscience, finding out when Confession is offered in your local parish, making an appointment to talk to a priest, talking to a friend whose spiritual life is admirable. Email me.  Do something to take a step closer to God--He will meet you more than halfway! There is no rest outside of relationship with God.

**The suggestions from the last post are also refreshing for the spirit and body.

1 comment:

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