I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Acceptance of God’s plan brings rest to our restless souls

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The readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent reflect two seemingly contradictory states (though they are actually complementary): rest and restlessness.

First, the state of rest. Jeremiah saw his share of conflict, but he also saw it was never destined to be a permanent state for mankind. Earlier he had said, "More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?"

Now, years later, through much prayer and suffering, it's revealed to him that God has a plan for all humanity. The day will come when the Lord will place His law within man and write it upon their hearts. "I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

When man fully embraces God's law, he will be one with God in the glory of eternity. The Holy Spirit will have won all battles in the heart of man, and man will rest in the glory of the kingdom.

However, before that time fully arrives, man will experience glimpses of the Lord subduing his heart. These glimpses are glimpses of glory, moments when the Holy Spirit has been temporarily victorious in bringing rest into a restless soul.

However, the two portraits we have of Jesus in today's selection — from Hebrews and the Gospel of John — depict a Jesus struggling in His humanity with man's sinful condition. These two portraits of restlessness encourage us in our struggles.

God is present in our restlessness. The Book of Hebrews tells us: "In the days when Christ was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence."

Even though Christ didn't sin, He suffered the effects of sin. When you and I sin, we experience alienation from God, ourselves and others. This alienation is more painful because we freely chose the action that brought about the sin. Hence, sin turns us against our very self.

Christ was no stranger to this effect of sin. "Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him."

Christ isn't running from the effects of mankind's sin. He embraces the will of the Father when He takes on the suffering caused by our sins. He fears the coming pain, but doesn't run. He sees it's coming and doesn't deny its anguish. He embraces the pain and rejection of mankind to make it possible for us to embrace the same pain of transformation. He also models how to accept the will of the Father.

We should become more generous in hanging out with Jesus in His passion, so that we experience more clearly His strength and courage within us to move forward through the darkness, confusion and pain, knowing that the Father has a plan that will be victorious.

The Gospel also portrays a Jesus who is suffering restlessness as He moves forward to the cross. If we look, for example, at what He didn't say, we may come to understand more clearly what He was thinking. For example, when Andrew and Philip went to Jesus to inform Him that some Greeks would like to see Him, He seems to ignore their question.

"Jesus answered them, 'the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.'"

What may appear as a non-answer is truly a very profound answer. It's almost as if Jesus says, "If you want to see the Son of man, stay with me during the coming weeks, and you will be introduced to the one who will die on the cross for your salvation."

He continues to give them details about the Son of Man, which they only understand later. "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me."

Now we get to the deep feelings that the apostles' innocent question triggered. He said, "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it and will glorify it again.'"

Even though Jesus is experiencing restlessness because of what lay before Him, the bottom line is: "Let it be done to me according to thy word." This didn't take away the suffering, but acceptance of the Father's will brought Him peace.

You and I would do well to meditate on some portion of Christ's passion each day. Welcome Him into your heart. He accepts the pain of the nails through His hands because of His love for you. Get in touch with something that may be causing restlessness. Allow yourself to get in touch with its cause. Embrace that restlessness as Jesus embraced the pain of the nails in His hands. Stay with His pain and His love. Embrace your restlessness until it ceases. Then carry that quiet with you as you return to your work or to your family. 

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