READINGS: Zechariah 9:9-10 / Romans 8:9,11-13 / Matthew 11:25-30
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Obviously, the CoViD-19 pandemic has brought untold hardships which have exhausted many of us. Some are sick, while others have even lost their lives. In addition, the economies of many nations are on the downward trend: many businesses are collapsing or have already collapsed; and many workers have lost their jobs. Also, the normal school systems have been negatively affected, making many final year students anxious about their graduation. Besides, some marriages are on the brink of breaking. Indeed, the list of the burdens created by the pandemic is a long one. Moreover, the prolongation of the pandemic is exhausting many of us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
In this exhausting situation of the pandemic, our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to cool of: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28; NRSVCE). Beloved, this invitation of Jesus to all who are exhausted and/or troubled is still open to us today. This invitation of Jesus to find rest in Him is as fresh as when He first announced it about 2,000 years ago. Beloved, let us heed to the invitation of Jesus, because only in Him can our burden be made light, and we can find rest. Only in Jesus can we find the true rest which enables us to recover from our exhaustion.
How, then, do we find rest in Jesus? Our Lord gives us, at least, three steps to find rest in Him:
* Trust in Him
* Be gentle like Him and
* Be humble like Him
1. TRUST IN JESUS
Jesus says, ‘take my yoke upon you’ (Matt. 11:29). A yoke is a long piece of wood that is fastened across the necks of two animals so that they can pull heavy loads. Now, we can liken our trust to a yoke and our difficulties or problems to the heavy loads. In this light, when we place our trust in ourselves or other human beings or things, our yoke is ineffective in pulling the weight of our problems. However, when we put our trust in Jesus, i.e. take His yoke, we are able to easily pull along the weight of our problems; for Jesus says that His yoke is easy (Matt. 11:30). That is, His yoke will make the pulling of the heavy loads easy. It is like having to work on a 10-acre farm with a hoe and then getting the hoe replaced with a tractor. The size of the farm remains the same, but the tractor makes the work far easier. Similarly, our trust in Jesus is the easy yoke (tractor) that makes whatever burden CoViD-19 has placed on us easy to carry or pull. So, beloved let us renew our trust in Jesus. This is the first step we have to take to find rest in Him.
2. BE GENTLE LIKE JESUS
The second step towards finding rest in Jesus is to be gentle like Him: ‘learn from me, for I am gentle’ (Matt. 11:29). To be gentle is to be calm and kind. Our Lord Jesus was calm and kind even in the midst of adversity. For instance, He was calm during His arrest in the garden and kind to the man whose ear Peter had cut off. Therefore, to learn from Jesus who is gentle, we also have to be calm even in this period of the pandemic and kind to others especially those who may be suffering more than we do -even if they once hurt us.
Jesus was gentle even in His arrest because He believed that His Father was still in control. Similarly, we are to be gentle in these difficult times, trusting that our Lord is still in control. And as Jesus’ trust in the Father was rewarded with His resurrection on the third day after His crucifixion, so our trust in the Lord which makes us calm and kind will eventually be rewarded greatly.
3. BE HUMBLE LIKE JESUS
Jesus did not simply say: ‘learn from me, for I am gentle’, for He added ‘and humble in heart’ (Matt. 11:29). Thus, the third step towards finding rest in Jesus is to be humble like Him. To be humble is to acknowledge one’s limitations and dependence on God. A humble person does not feel that he/she is more important than others. Such a person is able to endure adversities, for he/she who is down fears no fall.
Now, Jesus takes humility to a deeper level. That is, though God, He became human and even lowered Himself further by dying the extremely shameful and painful death on the cross. St. Paul poetically captures this:
‘Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, He humbled Himself
and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:6-8).
Beloved, this is the level of humility to which Jesus invites us (cf. Phil. 2:5). This is the type of humility that turns our misfortunes into blessings. Thus, because Jesus humbled Himself to undergo the crucifixion, God the Father ‘has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:9-11). As the Father glorified Jesus for His sacrificial humility, so He will turn the misfortunes of CoViD-19 into blessings, if we learn to be humble like Jesus. If we know that our present misfortunes could become blessings, we can find rest, instead of anxiety and exhaustion.
Beloved, let us trust in Jesus despite the hardships of CoViD-19. Let us drop our ineffective yoke of trying to deal with the situation by our own might, and rather take upon ourselves the easy yoke of trust in Jesus, of being gentle like Him and of being humble like Him. Yes, the burden of CoViD-19 will still be there for some time, but the easy yoke of Jesus will make us pull it along with ease. That is, the burden will feel light, and we will no longer be weary. Thus, we will find rest in Jesus. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis