Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 12:25-30
We Are Not Alone!
1. We live in a world that has all kinds of laws, rules and regulations. There are rules at home, rules in church and everywhere. The State, cities all have their rules. We are more afraid of the penalty for breaking the law than keeping the law itself. Who has ever kept to the speed-limit regulations? But since we afraid of being penalized for over-speeding, we keep to the speed-limit, especially when the cops are around. The Bible too is filled with the do’s and don’ts. Since Moses gave the 10 commandments in Exodus, the children of Israel have so many variations that it becomes a burden to keep up with them. They were more afraid of breaking the law than offending God.
2. Little wonder then, when Christ was asked, which was the greatest commandment, he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:36). Jesus reduced the commandments to love of God and love of neighbor. He made it easy for his disciples to live and breathe. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to learn from him so that we may have rest for our souls. He speaks of the mutual knowledge of wisdom between Him and God and invites the weary to come to him for refreshment.
3. Jesus urges us to learn humility from him. This is reechoed in today’s first reading. “See, your king shall come to you; a just Savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The vision of Zechariah the prophet, was such that God would raise up a ruler in the Davidic line, anointing him to carry out a universal mission of peace and reconciliation. He saw that this mighty king would be poor and committed to peace (humble and riding on a donkey) rather than to war (riding on a horse). And yet this king of peace was rejected and doubted, even by those close to him. John the Baptist wondered whether Jesus was truly the one “Who is to come” whom he proclaimed. (Matt. 11:1-15). Both Jesus and John the Baptist were equally rejected. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Matt. 11:18-19). The cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida refused to repent after hearing his message (Matt. 11:20-24).
4. In spite of his rejection, Jesus is full of praises to God, because the proud and the haughty, the Rabbis and the wise rejected him, but the poor, the humble, the meek and the gentle, even children embraced and clung to his words. Christ rejoiced over the revelation that his apostles chose to follow him. Lord to whom shall we go, you have the message of everlasting life. Christ clearly rejected intellectual pride that made it difficult for his simple teaching of love and mercy to be accepted. If we must follow Christ in his simplicity, then we must follow our hearts not our heads. William Barclay was right when he observed: “It is not cleverness which shuts out; it is pride. It is not stupidity which admits; it is humility. A man may be as wise as Solomon, but if he has not the simplicity, the trust, the innocence of the childlike heart, he shuts himself out.” The simple, the humble, the poor and children are closer to the heart of God; they will inherit the earth. Our prayer, therefore, should bring us closer to the presence of God. The more we pray the humbler we should become. When we learn humility and compassion from Jesus, we should practice it in the way we treat people around us.
5. Christ invites us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Is the burden you bear too heavy for you? Then it is not from God. Christ knows that we bear the burden of daily life, and, at times it may seem insurmountable. We are poor. We are weary, indeed. We are weighed down by Covid-19 pandemic, by political and economic uncertainties, we are not sure of our health care system amidst suits and counter lawsuits of our present-day government. We are uncertain of the educational future of our children and for some of us, our jobs are hanging on a balance. Our burdens are different. It may be physical handicap that makes life difficult for us. It could be sickness in the family and the burden of taking care of elderly parents. It may be the difficulty of scoring high grades in school or peer pressure at work. Our weariness may be the responsibility of leading or directing others as parents, teachers or supervisors. Some may have the burden of being sick, widowed or divorced. There are burdens some carry in looking after others. No matter what kind of weariness we may feel or what kind of burden we bear, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are over-burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28).
6. Christ knows that it is not easy for us. The fact that the poor and the lowly are God’s blessed ones, does not mean they are free from the weariness and burdens of human life. It fact, they often suffer more than the rich and the powerful. But all of us, rich or poor, strong or weak, have our share of weariness and burdens. We all feel fatigue from hard work. We feel boredom which comes from vague dissatisfaction with life and we, at one point or the other, have moments of depression. Christ invites us all, regardless of our situation. He doesn’t expect us to carry the burden of life alone. Do not be afraid, he tells us. His grace is sufficient for us. He is right here with us. Like the yoke that is carried by two animals, Christ will carry our burdens with us. He assures us, I am with you always till the end of time. “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.” (Is. 49:15-16). He tells us “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn. 16:33).
7. I want to conclude with this beautiful poem:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
May God bless and continue to carry us through our troubling times of our life the rest he promised us. Amen.
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP