Scripture Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30
How can we possibly know the mind and heart of God? Undoubtedly the best way is to listen to our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we hear in the Gospel today thanking his Father in heaven for revealing to the merest disciples the wisdom and knowledge of God.
The prayer that Jesus prays tells us a lot about God and a lot about ourselves. First, it is a clear statement that God is both Father and Lord—Adonai, in Hebrew—of earth as well as heaven. There is no equal to God, the Creator and Author of all that has being. God is the origin of all that is, and the end to which we are moving.
God is wholly Other and transcendent, yet at the same time completely present and involved in our lives. God is goodness and loving care unlike any other, completely concerned for the welfare of his children, as individuals and as Church.
Saint Paul put it beautifully when he tells the Ephesians: “I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Eph 3:14-15).
Jesus’ prayer also contains a warning that pride can block the action of God in one’s life, that is, if we are so wrapped up in ourselves, there can be little room for anything or Anyone else, especially God.
Pride, or self-reliance, closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom. Why? Because a disproportionate love of self, an exaggerated estimation of one’s own being, tries to turn oneself into God and leave the real God out of the picture or at least on the sidelines of one’s life.
Jesus contrasts this approach with a child-like candor and simplicity. The simple or pure of heart know their need for God. These little ones are like babies without any other expectation than to be cared for and loved. They are completely dependent and filled with trust in one who is greater, wiser and more trustworthy. In the present context, we see that One as none other than God, our Father and Lord, Redeemer of the human race.
Those who are truly simple and humble seek one thing: the summun bonum or the greatest good, that is to say, God alone. Just as pride, turned in on oneself, blinds us from the true light of Christ, so simplicity of being inclines the heart toward Grace and Truth.
We recognize God as the Supreme possessor of both grace and truth. Saint James in his letter, quoting the more ancient text from Proverbs, assures us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; Pro. 3:34). Put another way: the proud have no use for God and the humble can never have enough of God!
The humble of heart are able to receive true wisdom because they are free for God, like a window that is clean, allowing God to shine on and through it.
Truly hearing the Gospel text today, the question we might ask ourselves is this: do I humbly and simply submit to God, to God’s Word and action in my life, wherever I am and whatever I do? Or do I clutter my thoughts, words and deeds—my life–with that which prevents God from easily acting in my life? We can only answer these questions for ourselves, not for others, as tempting as that prospect might be!
Jesus claims that he is the perfect revelation of God. We profess this in our Christian faith. It is our ultimate hope for happiness that Jesus is God-with-us, Emmanuel. We can know the living God, thanks to Jesus having come to earth as one of us, yet never parting from the Father’s side, as our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters might express it.
Our knowledge of God, though, is not just limited to knowing things about God, but truly meeting God personally and forever, being in communion with God.
Jesus makes it possible for each and every person to actually know God as a loving Father, a tender parent, like a mother who can never forget her children.
God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, Scripture tell us, and Christ gave up his life on the cross that we might not perish but have eternal life. This is a love that is complete, unconditional and perfect.
We are all in need of this love and invited by Jesus in the Gospel today to “come and find rest” in the Lord, to take his yoke upon our shoulders and learn from him who is “meek and humble of heart.”
What is the yoke Jesus invites us to take up? The common understanding of this in Jesus’ time was the act of submission to God and to all his commandments, that is, the Torah, or Law of God. Put in other words, it means belonging totally and without compromise to God. Jesus says that his yoke is “easy.” The Greek word used can also mean the yoke “fits the wearer,” is “tailor-made” for each person.
In other words, we cannot live anyone else’s life, but only the life God has given us, with our weaknesses and strengths, our particular needs that may not be the needs of another. What God has revealed in his “Law” sustains us in our needs. For us Christians and Catholics this is especially found in the sacramental life of the Church.
Jesus also says that his “burden is light.” No burden can be too heavy if it is carried in love. Only Jesus can lift the burdens we carry, freeing us for the Kingdom of righteousness, peace and love. God has a spiritual Kingdom, not a political one, and so God’s Kingdom will last forever.
May the Lord give us a child-like simplicity, a purity of heart that helps us to go to the meek and humble Lord, who alone can free us from the burden of sin and guilt.
Christ desires to rule in our hearts and to remove all doubts and fears, whatever hinders us from submitting joyfully to the one who can “bring our mortal bodies to life through the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts,” as Saint Paul tells the Romans today in our second reading at Mass.
May the Holy Eucharist we celebrate and partake in be a real meeting and communion between us and God, who longs to save his children.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB