There are three things I want to share this morning. One thing that has nurtured me throughout what has proven to perhaps the most spiritually challenging week I have had in a long time, along with two other things, which compliment the first, one of which I received this morning by "accident."
The first thing is a well-known passage from St. Matthew's Gospel with which Fr. Felix Just, SJ began our annual Diocesan Deacon's Retreat last weekend. Our retreat had three distinct phases: Come/Abide/Go. Being slow, I have yet to get beyond Jesus' invitation to "Come unto Him."
While the passage he gave us was longer, I was really drawn to these three verses, a word of the Lord for me, as it were: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).
Who among us, if we are really being honest, is not (all too frequently) weighed down by life's heavy burdens? Further, who among us does not long for the heavenly rest, like that we read about in Hebrews 4:6-11? This is the rest Jesus offers us today. To attain this rest (remember faith is our response to God's initiative- what good is belief if it does not move us?) we must take Jesus' easy yoke, which is a light burden, upon ourselves and lay down the heavy burden we daily try to shoulder and "learn" from Him.
The Greek word translated as "learn" in this passage is manthano. Like all words, especially Koine Greek words, given that, when compared to modern standard English, the number of words is quite small, manthano has several related meanings. Sticking with what is perhaps the most neutral meaning, manthano means to increase one's knowledge. While Jesus in this passage does not directly say, "learn from me and here is what I will teach you...," after inviting us to learn from Him, He tells us that He is "gentle" (other translations use "meek") and "humble in heart." While one must be careful about these things, it doesn't strike me as too big a stretch to assert that what Jesus wants to teach us is gentleness and humility. It seems, too, that learning from Him results in my heart changing ("change of heart" is the meaning of the word "repent"- which is not explicitly used here). I am convinced that He wants to make my heart gentle and humble, like His Sacred Heart.
The Greek word translated as "gentle," or "meek," is praus. Praus refers to that disposition of heart that enables us to accept that how God deals with us is good, without disputing or resisting. A disposition exhibited by Job at the beginning of his afflictions: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21); "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:9). The inspired author of the Letter to the Hebrews also encourages his readers to cultivate this same disposition, especially in Hebrews 12:6-9 (I commented on this passage in my post for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross).
The word "humble" is a translation of the Greek word tapeinos, which literally means "not rising far from the ground." I can only speak for myself, but when it comes to being gentle and humble I frequently rebel, have an almost violent reaction (I am prone to cry out thing like, "Lord, are you paying attention to what's happening here?"). My resistance, my lack of meekness, gentleness, my pride are why this week has proved to be such a struggle and a burden.
The second thing is from my dear friend, Fr. Peter Nguyen's blog about his fellow Jesuit, Alfred Delp. Specifically his translation of Fr. Delp's diary entry for 9 October 1938, written during Delp's tertianship. I was struck by the final two sentences of his entry for that day:
From my haste and hurry I arrive through a personal conversation with my God. To love Him, to understand Him, and to find myself in Him.My only comment here is, "Amen. Lord deliver me from hurry and haste, from my sinful tendency to elevate the urgent over the important. Nothing is more important than You, O Lord!"
I notice this immediately, as I become more peaceful and relaxed under the nearness of God in this 2nd retreat. As the ancient fluidity of the Spirit again reveals, and I am glad
Finally, the "accident." As I set out to pray Morning Prayer today I switched from my one volume breviary, which only contains Evening and Morning Prayer, to Volume IV of the complete Liturgy of the Hours, which contains all the offices. Being used to just finding the appropriate day (Saturday, Week I), reciting the Invitatory, and proceeding to recite Lauds, I began, "accidentally," reciting the first Psalm of the Office of Readings, which was Psalm 131:
O Lord, my heart is not proudAs if that were not enough, here is the Psalm prayer:
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.
Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
As a child has rest in in its mother's arms,
even so my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and for ever.
Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart,I am grateful that after a week of resistance and rebellion that God, in His infinite goodness and because of the merits of Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Stephen, St. Martin, St. Gianna Molla, St. Edith Stein, Servant of God Cora Evans, my Guardian angel, and I am sure many others, perhaps even Alfred Delp, has not abandoned or forsaken me. This morning I truly recite the Confiteor from the depths of my heart in joy and gratitude. It's because despite my smallness, my stinginess, my hardness, and resistance that Christ lets His Sacred Heart beat within me that tears come to my eyes.
you declared that whoever receives a little child in your name receives you,
and you promised your kingdom to those who are like children.
Never let pride reign in our hearts,
but may the Father's compassion reward and embrace all who willingly bear your gentle yoke