14 Sunday of the Year A
Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The Gospel of today’s mass contains one of the most consoling and encouraging words of the whole bible. Jesus gives praise to God the Father for he has given understanding of his words to the humble, the lowly and the insignificant, while the wise and the learned fail to understand. What is hidden from some is revealed to others. So what is the difference and why is the difference? God's revelation, at least in scripture, is available to everyone. That means everyone can borrow or buy a bible to read if he or she can afford it. However, only those who open their mind and heart to him, only those who humble themselves before God, are receptive to his word.
That is what Jesus said in the Gospel: I give praise to you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones (Mt 11:25). Pascal was a physicist, mathematician and philosopher, and yet he said: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not God of the sophisticated and philosophers. Thus, does God really hide the mystery of his Kingdom from the wise and the learned?
If God does so, it seems to be unfair to them. Actually, God reveals himself to everyone, but only those who are humble and open themselves to what is supernatural are receptive to his word. Those wise and learned who rely on themselves tend not to depend on what is supernatural. When they do not want to depend on the supernatural, that is the moment, the mysteries of the kingdom are hidden from them. On the contrary, those wise and learned who are humble and keep their mind and heart open, can come to God to receive the mysteries of the kingdom. They are big in mind, but small in heart. Being small or little in a biblical sense means being simple, humble, and dependent and trusting.
In order to come to God and put our trust in him as children put their trust in their parents, we need to possess those qualities of children: simplicity, humility, dependence and trust. When growing up with possessions, knowledge and power, people tend to become less dependent on God, or still want to depend on him, depending on the degree they attach to possessions and power. Today Jesus invites us: Come to me all of you who are weary and find life burdensome, I will refresh you (Mt 11:28).
Did we ever feel weary due to duties in the family and responsibilities in society that would make us try to escape from some of our burdens of life? Did we ever have to carry burdens of life such as incurable disease in the physical, mental and emotional wound that made our mind and spirit worn out? Did we ever face suffering, sadness, anxiety, worry, fear and desperation? Did other people say we looked happy, yet we cried inside ourselves, we were ashamed of families and ourselves?
If so, today Jesus invites us to come to him, to express those feelings of our soul, to offload our burdens of life onto him, to mingle our sufferings with his suffering as an offering to God for the remission of sins, including own own sins. Jesus did not promise to take away our burdens of life, but invites us carry his yoke: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29). How was Jesus meek and humble of heart? The prophet Zachariah pictured a savior who would come as follows: Meek and riding on a donkey (Zec 9:9). Donkey is a docile animal, easy to be submitted. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, he chose to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy by riding on a donkey, not on a horse even though Arabian horses could be found in Jerusalem at that time. That means Jesus was willing to obey his Father’s will, accept suffering and cross as a ransom for the sin of humankind. He assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Mt 11:30). Why did we find our yoke, not easy, our burden, not light?
Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans gave the reason for the heavy yoke and burden because the spirit of Christ is lacking in our lives (Rom 8:10). We get tired of our struggles when we begin to rely on our own strength, and not on the grace of God to pull us through. Did we ever complain that God and religion did not do any good to us? If religion does not do any good to our lives, then religion is going to an end. However, Christianity still stands today and has brought spiritual benefit to millions and millions of Christians. If Christians have not attained spiritual benefit, then who is to be blamed? Therefore, we have to find out where is a motive that makes a yoke easy and a burden light. The answer is the love of Christ.
Saint Augustine recognized the motive of love in our lives when he wrote: Where there is love, there will be no more hardship. If there is still some kind of hardship, that hardship will be accepted with love. To come to God, our soul will find rest as Jesus promises (Mt 11:29) and as Saint Augustine confirms it when he wrote: Our hearts are restless, until they rest in the Lord.
A prayer for refreshment:
O Lord our God, the source of energy and strength.
We thank you for your promise to refresh us.
I offer to you my labor and burdens of life,
my illnesses and sufferings in body mind and spirit.
I offer to you my anxiety and fear, loneliness and sadness,
misunderstanding and doubt, my loss and shame.
Come Lord Jesus! Come into my life and travel with me
to repair, correct everything inside and outside of me. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong