Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. (Today’s Gospel, Matt 11)
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint. (Today’s first Mass reading, Isaiah 40)
What is it that makes the human heart so restless? It is many things, yet it can all be reduced to this: idolatry — putting other things, people, or passions before love of God. As St. Augustine so beautifully declared:
You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You. — St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 1,1.5
The word idolatry might strike us as odd in the 21st century, conjuring up images of golden calves and foreign idols, as it were. But the idols today are no less real and no less dangerous to the soul, even if they take new forms. As St. James admonishes:
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the scripture speaks without meaning when it says, “The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy”? But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:1-6)
The word “adulterer” and “idolater”, when it comes to God, are interchangeable. We are His Bride, and when we give our love and devotion to our idols, we are committing adultery against our Beloved. The sin does not necessarily lie in our possession, but in that we allow it to possess us. Not every possession is an idol, but many idols are in our possession. Sometimes it is enough to “let go”, to detach interiorly as we hold on to our possessions “loosely,” so to speak, particularly those things necessary for our existence. But other times, we must separate ourselves, literally, from that which we have begun to give our latria, or worship.2 Corinthians 6:17: “Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you.”
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction… Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” (1 Tim 6:8-9; Heb 13:5)
The Good News is that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 In other words, even now, Jesus loves you and me despite our unfaithfulness. Yet it is not enough to simply know this and praise and thank God for His mercy; rather, continues James, there has to be a real letting go of the “old man” — repentance:
So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10)
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Dependence on God. (Matthew 6:24)
So you see, we must choose. We must choose either the immeasurable and fulfilling beatitude of God Himself (that comes with the cross of denying our flesh) or we can choose the passing, fleeting, glamor of evil.
Drawing near to God, then, is not a matter of simply calling out His Name;Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” it, is coming to Him in “Spirit and truth.”John 4:24 It means acknowledging our idolatry — and then smashing those idols, leaving them behind so that their dust and pith may truly be washed away by the Blood of the Lamb, once and for all. It means lamenting, mourning, and weeping for what we have done… but only so that the Lord may dry our tears, place His yoke upon our shoulders, give us His rest, and renew our strength — that is “exalt you.” If the Saints could only appear to you now where you are, they would say that the Divine Exchange of one tiny idol in our lives would find recompense and joy for an eternity; that what we cling to now is such a lie, that we cannot imagine the glory we forfeit for this bit of dung or “rubbish”, says St. Paul.cf. Phil 3:8
With our God, even the greatest sinner has nothing to fear,cf.The Great Refuge and Safe Harbour and To Those in Mortal Sin so long as he or she returns to the Father, in sincere contrition. The only thing we have to fear, really, is ourselves: our proclivity to cling to our idols, to close our ears to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to shut our eyes to the Light of truth, and our superficiality, that upon the slightest temptation, returns to sin as we throw ourselves again into darkness rather than the unconditional love of Jesus.
Perhaps today, you feel the weight of your flesh and the exhaustion of carrying about your idols. If so, then today can also become the beginning of the rest of your life. It starts with humbling yourself before the Lord and recognizing that, without Him, we “can do nothing.” cf. John 15:5
Indeed, my Lord, deliver me from me….
Read how there is a coming “rest” for the entire Church: The Coming Sabbath Rest
|↑1||2 Corinthians 6:17: “Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you.”|
|↑3||Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”|
|↑5||cf. Phil 3:8|
|↑6||cf.The Great Refuge and Safe Harbour and To Those in Mortal Sin|
|↑7||cf. John 15:5|