Friday, July 3, 2020

14th Sunday Year A (Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30) Come to me all you who are overburdened

Kennedy's Art Shop, Dublin
My grandfather, Kenneth Kennedy, used to have a brush-factory in Dublin, which later turned into an art shop and gallery, which is still going. At one stage he employed a man as a kind of messenger boy and general dog’s body (gofer). He was a very simple man and was probably more of a burden from a business point of view, than anything else. Once, another friend of my grandfather’s was visiting the shop and he said to him, ‘Kenneth, why are you still holding on to that guy?’ And my grandfather just said, ‘Ah, shur I can’t throw him out. He has nowhere else to go.’ The other guy said, ‘Kenneth, you’ll never make a good business man’ and he was probably right.

Most people I know have to work pretty hard to make a living and most businesses I know—and I worked for several before I became a priest—can be quite ruthless when it comes to letting people go if they feel they could make more money without them. Recently the CEO of one of the big pharmaceutical companies said, ‘We are not in the business of helping people. We are in the business of making money for our shareholders.’ And a few years ago a director who had been hired to make one of the big auto companies in France more efficient said that those they didn’t need would either leave through the door or the window, referring to suicide. In order to force people to quit many employees had been given humiliating tasks in the company. The result of all this is that it causes a lot of stress at work. Financial pressure is one of the biggest burdens people carry. It is also one of the biggest causes of marriage problems.

Where do you turn to when you feel that you can not keep going?  Who do you turn to for compassion and support? In the readings today Jesus is telling us to turn to him, because He knows the pressures we are under. God is well aware of how difficult it can be and He offers to help us. We find our strength and peace in him.

Jesus used the image of the ‘yoke’. The yoke was the wooden brace that linked two animals together around the neck, in order to split the load between them. The Lord is telling us that He wants to help us carry the load, to take some of the burden, but we also have to allow him to do this. It can be tempting to leave God to Sundays, or to ‘religious things’, but from all that God teaches us through the Bible, one thing that is very clear is that He is very interested in everything we do, down to the most ordinary things. God is well aware of the burdens we carry and He is telling us that we need to keep coming back to him to replenish our strength regularly, just like you have to do with your car. He is saying, ‘Let me give you the peace and hope that you need, so that you are able to get up and go on a bit farther,’ but we must keep coming back to him regularly to receive that strength and peace.

One of the great tragedies of our time is the high number of suicides, especially among our young people. Like everything else there are probably many reasons for it, but I have no doubt that one of the biggest reasons is because people have lost faith and they don’t know what to turn to. How do you keep going when everything seems impossible? We need a source of strength, something, or someone we can continually turn to, in order to give us renewed strength and purpose. If we believe that this life is just passing and that there is something wonderful waiting for us in the next life, then this gives us strength to keep going during difficult times. What we suffer here is only temporary, so we are prepared to put up with a lot, but if you don’t have any faith, what do you turn to?

Jesus says, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ If you have faith in God—and being here would suggest you do—it is because Jesus has chosen to reveal the Father to you. Jesus decided to make the Father known to you, which is why you are drawn here. You didn’t just stumble upon God, Jesus revealed himself specifically to you. Even if you were brought up Catholic, just because you learnt about the faith, doesn’t mean that you have faith. It still has to be revealed to you in some way. Otherwise it is just another subject.

Remember when Jesus asked the Apostles who people thought He was and Peter said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus then said to Peter, ‘You are blessed, because you didn’t come to this conclusion by yourself. God the Father revealed it to you’ (Matt 16:17). Jesus chose to reveal the Father to you and He will continue to reveal more and more of himself to you if you remain open. The more our faith grows, the more we will make sense of what our life on earth is about. Then as our faith grows, we pass it on to others by bearing witness to what we believe in, by the way we live.

Three things in particular that God has given us to help us are the Word of God, to guide and direct us; confession, so that we can get up again as often as we fall; and above all, the Eucharist where we can receive Jesus himself, every day if we wish. Do you want to know what God has to say to you? Read the Scriptures, because that is one of the primary ways that God speaks to us. Think of all the information you take in each day: advertising, news programs, chat shows, social media. What could possibly be more important than to listen to what God has to say to us. What do you fill your mind with? Think also of the opportunity Jesus gives us to receive him each day. What could possibly be more important than this? What greater strength could we receive than Jesus himself in the Eucharist.

The burdens that we are faced with each day, can be difficult, but the Lord assures us that He is with us and wants to share the load with us, if only we will allow him to. They are his words in Scripture.

Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’

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