Striving to Rest

breviary

The promise of entering into his rest. (Hebrews 4:11)

St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews offers us the definitive interpretation of Psalm 95. And Psalm 95 must be important, since we priests recite it every day, first thing. It is the daily opening of the Divine Office.

The psalm exhorts us to sing praise to the Creator, to acknowledge His universal sway, and to submit to him like sheep submit to their shepherd. “Today, listen to the Lord!” Soften your hearts. Because the stubborn will not enter into his rest.

Interpreting all this, St. Paul exhorts us: “Let us strive to enter into that rest.”

A paradoxical thing to say, to be sure. Strive! To rest. Since I am a runner, and therefore know that there is nothing more relaxing than running many miles, I can feature this paradox pretty well.

Juniper Serra tombWe all can, I think. Back in the day, before Roe v. Wade, the few weeks before Ash Wednesday had a sleepy, restful feel in the typical American parish, and naps were allowed. But we cannot rest in late January now. We have to go on a pilgrimage and stand up for human rights.

So we strive, in order to enter into rest.

Speaking of striving and entering into his rest: Father Junipero Serra, Apostle of California.

Perhaps you recall that some brother priests and I followed in Father Junipero’s footsteps for a week last winter. The California missions he founded wrap the pilgrim up in prayerful quiet and devotion to God even now, 200 years later. I prayed for all of us at Father Serra’s tomb.

The very-exciting news for us American Catholics: Holy Father will canonize Junipero Serra this fall! When Pope Francis comes to visit the U.S. Really wonderful news.

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