Fr. Glenn: ‘And I Will Give You Rest.’

By Fr. Glenn Jones

I was at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe the other day, officiating at the last farewell to a beloved former parishioner—a young wife and mother who succumbed, after many years’ valiant struggle, to unrelenting cancer. A privilege and blessing to be able to do this one last service for her, it was even more so to have visited and ministered to her at UNM Hospital in her last days … to spend time with this gentle and faithful woman who strengthened others by her resolute determination, and to be able to assure her of the eternal rest offered by God. 

Wandering afterwards through the green lawn and marble markers, few, I thought, could walk through such “gardens of stone” without being deeply moved. There is something about that regularity … that uniformity … of the markers which strikes to the heart even more so than most places of rest—those memorial stones standing in formation as did the men and women beneath them on parade fields long ago—each life a novel in itself with unnamed joys, struggles and trials. 

By the dates of death one can find those who died in war and in peace … young and old, of every rank, race, religion and creed … a reminder that death is no respecter of rank or status; time comes for us all, and often unexpectedly … and thus Jesus’ admonition: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)

This remembrance came to mind while reading the Gospel for this weekend’s Catholic Mass, which cites one of Jesus’ most comforting assurances: “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Nothing that is loved dies, but exists in the mind of the lover when the loved’s material existence ceases.  We remember parents and grandparents, friends and family … even beloved pets of our youth. And yet, Christians and those of other faiths believe also in the eternal living existence as well—unseen by material eyes, but real nonetheless. This is the “rest” which Jesus offers us in the quotation above … and yet is a rest that can exist in smaller degree in this earthly life as well. 

We are often deeply—overly—immersed in all the hectic goings-on of the world around us, often chasing the wrong things … or the right things in the wrong way. Fame, fortune, pleasures … all of these things can consume not only ourselves, but those around us, reminding us of another of Jesus’ poignant warnings: “…what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26) 

Jesus there, of course, was speaking in particular of forfeiture of eternal salvation should we prefer the ephemeral things of the world, but the principle holds in earthly life as well. After all, what does it profit to work excessively long hours to gain wealth and notoriety at the loss of family? … or to rip apart the family for a “fling”? What does it profit to sink into spiraling debt for an immediate thrill of gambling, or to seek comfort in too much bottle or drugs? These are things that will not—cannot—give rest, in body or in conscience. Rather, in the end, it becomes as scripture says: “What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us? All those things have vanished like a shadow, and like a rumor that passes by; like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found…”  (Wisdom 5:8-13)

Rather than be chained to the destructive, the “yoke” to which Jesus refers above is the comforting yoke of virtue and goodness … the yoke of faith and hope … the yoke of love—the same yoke which He carried for all of us … for each of us … all the way to the cross. 

Taking on such a yoke is not always easy at first; as with Jesus, it requires selfless sacrifice and charity. As He says in another place, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)  Yet, as is often noted, a yoke is made for two. When we take up a position of discipleship—the yoke of Christ—He is yoked alongside, and the longer we are yoked with Him, the yoke becomes habitual…the yoke becomes easy…the burden light, and even joyful…for who can love selflessly without being himself loved in return? And love is that which, in the depths of our being, we long for far more than anything else. This is why our rest consists not in material junk or indulging selfish passions, but being embraced for eternity by God, who is love IS love.

And so the faithful person who takes upon himself Christ’s yoke and lives his faith determinedly knows with St. Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) 

Jesus assures His faithful: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2) And so, to our young wife and mother, sister and friend gone before us: Rest, little one. Adieu, our sweet girl. Goodnight … mija. Until we are all together again.

“…the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself…”  (Wisdom 3:1-5)

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.

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