AnnAliese Harry considers how busy parents can respond to Jesus' call to find rest in His arms.
Recently, while at the online website run to support the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, I stumbled upon the book, Will You Come to Mass? by Susan Joy Bellavance, and illustrated by Sara Tang. Written for small children, the entire premise of the book is to encourage the children to respond to the loving calls to Mass that are trumpeted by angels. In the end, only a little lamb finds his way into Jesus’ waiting embrace.
While the story might be written for small children, I have noticed recently that sometimes, I, too, need the gentle loving reminders of God’s love for me, written in very simple terms. While I love my adult Catechism of the Catholic Church, and while the new edition is quickly wearing in, being marked in, tabbed, and the corners of pages beginning to fold, I also equally enjoy my children’s YouCat for Kids, and the YouCat typically reserved for youth/teenagers. Sometimes, I need bigger concepts and bigger teachings broken down simply. Sometimes, I just need basic.
The morning my writing deadline dawned, I woke with an immediate thought for this month’s piece. The first thought to my still-sleeping brain was, “Rest in the arms of Jesus.” Because the sun wasn’t even up at the time, I tried to drift back to sleep, but the thought kept coming, intruding on what little sleep time was left before the school preparations for the day.
“Rest in the arms of Jesus.”
What does rest in the arms of Jesus look like? For my children, I have hopes that it looks the way it is depicted in Bellavance’s book. Tang illustrates the images so beautifully – a little lamb in the embrace of our Savior.
But, too often, parents of children of all ages are overwhelmed when they cross the threshold of the church. The sanctuary can, more times than not, feel the actual opposite of a sanctuary – it becomes a battle ground between teaching and instilling reverence, and combatting clothes-wearing wombats who may or may not have brushed their teeth and hair in the rush to get to Mass antics of children. Mass doesn’t quite go off without a hitch more Sundays than not around here, and I have difficulty finding “rest” in the embrace of Jesus while at Mass.
Yet, just as are the children, so, too, are the adults precious in the eyes of God, and still considered lambs. Those able to make the time to visit Him during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are finding themselves placed at the foot of the Cross, but also placed in the embrace of Christ. Unfortunately, many of us never even consider that intimate encounter with Christ in the Eucharist as an embrace from Him.
So, if we aren’t considering Christ’s embrace at the Eucharist, and we aren’t able to fully “rest” in Jesus’ arms, how is a parent to “rest in the arms of Jesus”?
As parents, we have the opportunity to rest in the arms of Jesus any time we have intentional interaction with Him.
Resting in Jesus’ arms looks like talking to Him in the car, shuttling from one appointment to school pick-up line, either using standard prayers like the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, or talking to Him on the drive. It looks like inviting Jesus to join you in the hassle of the never-ending pile of laundry, or the dishes that “need to be done all over again,” while simply conversing with Jesus while you do those chores. It looks like slowing your breathing, raising your heart and mind to God, and simply saying “thank you” for even the smallest thing that goes right in your day.
About two years ago, I was introduced to the Surrender Novena credited to Servant of God Don Dolindo. I haven’t prayed it, but someone recently mentioned it in a group at my parish. When looking back on the daily writings of this very simple novena prayer, I realized the entire concept of the Surrender Novena encourages just that – to rest in the arms of Jesus. Even without the daily readings (which are no more than a paragraph or two at the most), the simple prayer, offered up, is a way to rest in the arms of Jesus. Even repeating my favorite prayer, offered at the bottom of the image of the Divine Mercy image, “Jesus, I trust in You,” is a way to rest in the arms of Jesus.
St. Augustine reminds us in his own prayerful writing, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” St. Augustine appreciated that God, alone, will suffice as our source of rest. Every single activity can be a way to communicate with God, and be an active prayer to God; but, to truly rest, we need to create the quiet and the time – we need to create the intentional encounter with Christ to be able to let the anxieties, cares, concerns, and noise melt away.
Rest isn’t an elusive goal to achieve. When surrounded by noise, rushed from one appointment to the next, and trying to be all things to all people, it is still possible to rest.
The challenge is to create the intentional focus and reminder to rest. Some experts would say to schedule a rest in your calendar, setting aside a specific time of the day. Other people suggest setting a timer on your phone, to go off as a prompt to pull you out of your current day and into a time of prayer. Others, still, like to live life a little freer from a schedule, and prefer to steal moments to themselves here and there. No matter how you get there, the important point to take away is to be intentional about carving out some time to rest in the arms of Jesus.
God loves you, and God created you to live in this world in this particular time – with all the trappings of noise today, you have been created for just this precise moment (Esther 4:14). Reach for Christ’s outstretched arms, and let Him hold you, embrace you, and love you. While you might not need to find His embrace in a large church-building, remember that He waits longingly and lovingly for you to also find Him there. He simply invites you to find His waiting embrace at Mass or even Eucharistic Adoration.
Every one of us simply need to be willing to seize the opportunities to reciprocate Christ’s love.
Each of us are invited to simply rest in the arms of Jesus.
How will you be intentional about resting in the arms of Jesus?
Copyright 2021 AnnAliese Harry
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About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.