FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2020
THE INVITATION IS REAL, COME TO JESUS
Readings: 1st- Zech. 9:9-10; 2nd- Rom. 8:9, 11-13; Gospel- Matt. 11:25-30
The third stanza of Nicole Mullen’s song “Come unto me” goes like this: “Are the clouds above your head oh so heavy? Bursting with showers of despair. And do you struggle under more than you can carry? Has life given more than you can bear? And would you like to trade your failures in for victories? Like piles of ashes in from piles of gold. And can you fall down like a child who is helpless? So, he can pick you up and make you whole.”
As a young boy, I remember the day we went to the stream to fetch water. Fetching water in Africa is an important chore. It was early in the morning on a summer day. With mom and my older sisters, we walked on foot for about five miles each carrying different sizes of water cans on our head (Africans often carry objects on their heads). I had a water can that was considerably heavier than I could carry because I always flexed my muscles with my sisters. Halfway back from the stream, the water can got heavier and I was struggling to walk. I didn’t want to say it aloud, so I dragged my feet in desperation. My siblings walked ahead of me not aware of my struggle. I finally stopped moving with two options; either I had to throw the can off my head or collapse under the weight of it. So, I burst into tears instead. At that point, mom looked back and saw what was going on. She made everyone stop, hurriedly put down her own bucket of water, rushed at me, and lifted the water can off my head. Immediately, I felt a great relief both physically and emotionally. Mom took care of my load and hers and let me walk freely home.
When Nicole Mullen sings, “And do you struggle under more than you can carry? Has life given more than you can bear?” she brings our minds to focus on the presence of Jesus who alone can lift the burdens off our shoulders. The gospel of today says clearly about this invitation from Christ, “Come to me, all who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Here, Christ calls our awareness of the presence of God in our lives. He begins that passage by first alerting us that God has omnipotent authority. God is the “Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” which means that he is in total control. The key to understanding the mystery of our human existence is to identify God’s power in our lives. Humility is that gift of grace to know that God is present and that only in Him do we find solutions.
Putting the statement of Jesus in its proper scriptural context, Jesus approaches Capernaum where he confronts the Scribes and the Pharisees for their arrogance and prideful attitude. To this group Jesus would later warn his disciples, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt. 23:4). These Scribes and Pharisees, for instance, had multiplied the rules into about 613 making it difficult for the people to observe. Jesus challenges them against putting up shows in the synagogues, at feasts, and in marketplaces and to avoid creating heavy burdens for people.
On the contrary, Jesus simplifies God’s commandments into two- love the Lord your God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself. He makes following God simple. The key is to follow Jesus the gentle, meek, and humble master. Jesus does not spread his kingdom by conquering others. He does not rule by oppression, rather quietly walks beside those who come to the Father through him. Jesus conquered through being obedient on the cross.
The humble and meek of heart listen to Jesus. They understand his invitation and honor it. For instance, his apostles qualify as being meek and humble; less educated as they were, they clearly understood his invitation and followed him. Jesus’ disciples took on the yoke of Christ which enabled them to spread the gospel of love and truth. They found rest for their souls.
Obviously, most of us carry burdens that weigh heavily on us. Sometimes, we do not recognize that these burdens are heavier than we can bear. Like in my case at the time I carried the can of water on my head, those burdens make us restless. What happens at those moments? Some of us slow down our spiritual pace. Some of us drag our feet. Some of us groan inwardly. Some of us experience physical and emotional pains. Some simply withdraw as I was doing. Imagine if I didn’t cry out when it got so heavy on me. The can of water was collapsing on me. I was crashing. Imagine if my mom hadn’t come to my rescue. I was giving up because the weight was more than I could bear. What burden do you carry? Is addiction weighing you down? Is sin making you drag your feet? Are you saddened by the trauma of a failed relationship? Are you feeling disappointment from failed goals? Is it pressure from sickness?
Jesus is addressing you today, he says, “ALL you who labor and are burdened.” ALL is an inclusive word, meaning everyone. Everyone is invited, but only the humble and little ones understand the invitation. Jesus says, “Come to me…” Come to Jesus and receive your freedom. Come to Jesus and be relieved. Come to Jesus and get your burdens uplifted. It was such a relief when my mom lifted the can of water from my head. My neck straightened up. My shoulders and lungs expanded. I breathed the fresh air. But that was momentary. If the intervention of my mom brought such temporary physical and emotional relief, how much more the eternal freedom in Christ Jesus.
“Come to me…” means Jesus knows you more than my mom knew me. Like Nicole Mullen sang, “would you like to trade your failures in for victories? Like piles of ashes in from piles of gold?” The yoke of Jesus is easy; his burden is light. That yoke is the CROSS which I like to explain in the following acronym:
C -Come (trust)
R -Real (vulnerable)
O -Open (sincere)
S -Simple (humble)
S -Safe (secure)
Let’s go to Jesus in our vulnerability, open to his healing, simple in our faults, and safe in his embrace. He heals you in the sacraments. “And can you fall down like a child who is helpless? So, he can pick you up and make you whole.”