Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28
I would say in the last few months since I have taken on this job at my parish, these words have taken on, for the first time, a true meaning. This will be a short post on this passage.
I hear often that prayer, meditation or any spiritual exercise is just tiresome. There is so little energy at times to muster up 15-20 minutes to pray a rosary or read some spiritual book yet we can spend hours and hours watching TV or just doing nothing. I have been guilty of this myself, so I speak from experience. It would seem absolutely counter-intuitive that these same things could somehow provide us rest but as we read the words of our Lord, those that come to Him with all their burdens will be given rest. How can this be?
Now there may be a few reasons for this but the biggest one is that the individual is still very immature or young in their spiritual journey. Here are some words from St. Paul:
I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way – 1 Corinthians 3: 2-3
Here St. Paul breakdowns the means by which we grow during the spiritual journey. Those who are starting off need to be led gently and with ease because at this point they are not able to manage the more rigorous demands of the faith. This to me parallels many things about the journey through the interior life: it has to start off gradual and it has to get continuously more challenging. Many Carmelite saints speak to this reality. Nevertheless, St. Paul does tell us that eventually we should transition from a childish form of spirituality into something more substantial. This is a call for all Christians.
I think this also explains some of the things I have written about before. For example, joy in suffering or love of your enemies is a grace and one that I would say is similar to what St. Paul calls solid food. However, if one is still immature in their spiritual development, solid food may be harmful and fruitless. This is a very key lesson and one that has helped me many times. It allows me to appreciate the fact that, as I do not yet understand completely the joy of suffering or how to love of my enemy, I just have not reached that point in my own spiritual journey where I have been given to the grace, or solid food, to understand this.
I believe it is very human to want to be all grown up as soon as possible. We see this with children in how they want to imitate us and be like us as quickly as they can. We want to be able to have the solid food now because we think we are old enough, perhaps mature enough, to take it but this type of food is not something we can choose to take on our own. We need the grace from God to be able to eat the solid food, especially when it comes to the spiritual realm.
For whatever reason, this passage has taken on a real meaning and I think it just has to do with getting a taste of firmer food. As one gets accustomed to their type of food, the Lord at times will introduce something more substantial and we have to give Him praise for this because it’s a very small, yet tangible sign that there is growth. When scripture becomes more meaningful internally, when it becomes more than just words in a book, this is a grace from God as well. All good things come from God and all progress in the spiritual life comes from Him too. Finding rest in prayer was a great gift and one that I now see I cannot live without.
So do not get discouraged in your spiritual journey when you find that all the work you are doing just makes you more tired. It would be wise to consult someone with experience in such matters, such as a spiritual director, who can guide you more effectively. Ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for you daily for she will bring everyone quickly to Jesus Christ. Pay attention to these small growths because this a sure sign that the effort you are doing to maintain your spiritual activities is bearing fruit. It may take time, months or years, but that is why perseverance is vital in these early stages.
Blessed Mother, lead all men and women to Jesus Christ!