Rest

All of us want a good life. And so we are all manic every day, juggling meetings, emails, voice mails, answering our cell phones, errands in our lunch hour, micro waved dinners, all at home eating in front of separate television sets…

We have lost the ability to rest. Everyone is busy. I feel so uncomfortable when people start their conversation by telling me “I know you are very busy, Father, but I need to talk to you!” Is this the impression I am giving, that I am very busy? How can a shepherd of souls be ever busy for his sheep?

We definitely need a gentler approach to life. In saying, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest”, Jesus Christ is suggesting a road worth strolling through.

This road rests on two basic street signals: Look Up and Give Up.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author of Treasure Island (1883) and Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde (1886) was very familiar with the Pacific; he lived his last years in Samoa. He was the one, himself a Protestant, who defended Father Damien when he was accused by the Protestant media of immoralities when he was doing his sterling work among the lepers in Molokai, Hawaii.

Once he spoke of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive the ship to ruin. In the midst of all this panic, one man went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot quarters and saw the helmsman, at his post holding the wheel steadfastly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.”

If we want to rest, we need to understand that we are not the captain or the pilot of our ship. He is. My family is His family. My job is His job. My Church is His Church. My children are His children. My marriage is His marriage. He is even interested in what I do more than I am myself. This takes a big load from our mind. We can relax.

So, look up all the time. Above, there is a sky and the sky is a symbol of heaven.

After serving as a missionary for many years in Africa, this missionary had to return home because he was very sick. It just happened that on the same huge ocean liner, there was President Teddy Roosevelt returning to the States after a grand African Safari. Many people and photographers were waiting the President of the United Sates at the New York harbor. No one however was waiting for this missionary.

Bitterness seized the missionary and turning to God, he exclaimed, “I have come back home after all this time and service to the church and there is no one, not even one person here to welcome me home.”

A still small voice (his guardian angel?) answered back inside him, saying “You’re not home yet.” How true!

Heaven breathes new energy in what we are doing. And teaches us how to hand over our problems to the big shoulders of our God.

There are different versions of this story. The latest one I heard comes with a Chamorro background. A pastor in Guam in order to underscore Jesus’ invitation to rest, used the following parable. The driver of a carabao (his Latin name is Bubalus bubalis!) wagon was on his way to the market when he overtook an old woman carrying a heavy load. Feeling sorry for her, he invited the woman to ride in the wagon. Gratefully she accepted. After a few minutes, the driver turned to see how the woman was doing. To his surprise, he found her still straining under the heavy weight, for she had not taken the burden off his shoulders.

How many times we do the same mistake! We fail to pass on to Him our burdens. We carry on in life wanting to solve our problems, wanting to fix our troubles, never even bothering to get His opinion! The results are often anxiety, depression, despair, and even sickness and infirmity.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” says the psalmist (Psalm 55:22). Give Up. Stop carrying the burdens just on your shoulders.

But how am I going to do this? Jesus said it, “Come to me”. Choose to sit at his feet and listen to His words and learn from Him. He will give you the same reassurance that the Prophet Habakkuk had:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to go on the heights.”

Let us enjoy the ride!


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.