14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It was with simple people, who admitted their dependence on God, that Jesus felt most at home -whether they were poor or rich, illiterate or learned. This is what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel, when he bursts out in a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving. Jesus reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to those who are open and receptive. He invites us to come to him when we are weary from work and worry. He asks us to learn from him to be gentle and humble of heart so that we may find peace for our troubled souls.
Today’s Gospel is not very comforting for the learned among us. It indicates clearly that no one, no matter his or her erudition, should presume that he or she has “got it all together.” It reminds us that knowing our faith and theologizing about it requires humility and openness.
Today’s Gospel is the conclusion of a chapter dealing with belief and unbelief. Jesus admits that the ministry in Galilee has not gone well. The religious experts have rejected his message, but the outer fringes of society have accepted it. This was the Father’s plan, a plan which did not exclude human malice.
One might expect that the first to recognize Jesus as the Anointed of God would be the teachers of the Law, for the Law and the Prophets announce Christ. Unfortunately, their spiritual knowledge had grown dull under the weight of subtle reasoning, intellectual concepts, and disputes over interpretation -all of which engender self-sufficiency of knowledge and thus of pride.
Jesus has much to share, great secrets to reveal, but few are the people ready to pay attention to him. Too many know too much, or think they know too much, to know the truth Jesus brings. Jesus’ message seems too simple to believe, so only the simple -the humble- believe it.
Jesus acknowledges that he possesses a very special relationship with the Father -a relationship that transcends adoptive sonship. Finally, Jesus offers a share in that unique relationship. He invites all who find the Pharisaic law a yoke to accept his own yoke. But that yoke is bound up with the very person of Jesus: the yoke is Jesus himself. He offers himself as the embodiment of gentleness and humility. To acknowledge his person is to learn humility and gentleness. To accept his person is to know peace. The Law simply will not do.
Jesus extends a gentle invitation to all people of all times to come to him for rest and peace. Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is a poem which contains a similar invitation: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Since everyone at times feels weary and burdened, it certainly is encouraging to know where to turn for relief.
The Lord, like the Statue of Liberty, poins out a harbor of safety and opportunity for those seeking a better life. The Statue of Liberty has benefited innumerable a number of people who have come to these shores. Yet the best of earthly blessings cannot satisfy all the longings of the human heart. We possess deeper needs, and only Jesus can speak to them. We might think that material blessings would be better than spiritual ones, but actually they are the lesser gifts. Wealth can easily bring more pain than joy. A peaceful mind and a calm sense of security is by far a greater possession. Temporary benefits have a built-in sadness by the very fact that they are temporary. The quality of a gift is ultimately determined by its capacity to endure.
Jesus, Lord of all nations, invites the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, to triumph over their weariness and burdens of life by discovering the spiritual strength of his gentle and humble heart. His promised refreshments do not disappear with time. The are faith, trust, courage and genuine love, which lift us up and make us live forevermore.