Matt. 11:25-30 At that time Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
One of the burdens people bore around Jesus’ time was that of a heavy, law-centred religion. Some of the religious people of Jesus’ time had very strict interpretations of the law, and Jesus is challenging this overburdening religion. The same happens often in any religious people – some can be over-demanding and their piety is overbearing.
Brings out the Best
Jesus’ message is challenging and demanding, in a way that is fulfilling for the person, offering rest from the burdens of life and from the rigours of religion. True religion brings out the best in people, not berating them for the worst. It is based on love and nourishes our deepest desires for love.
The yoke which the animal carried across his neck could be made in such a way that it was balanced and allowed each animal carry burdens without being overloaded. Religion is meant to be a support for the anxieties of life, not add to them. True religion is not guilt-ridden like it sometimes has been; it is caring for others and loving God and knowing we are infinitely loved by God.
You are precious and loved
The rest for the soul is the love of God, who says all the time, ‘you are precious in my eyes and I love you’ (Isaiah 43). Jesus always speaks of God as gentle – like in the first reading God is presented as one who rides on a donkey – the mark of the humble person, whereas the king and the mighty rode a horse.
Prayer is a time to relax into the mystery of this love of God; our Sunday worship is to join in the community of those loved by God. Love if it is real, rests our souls and refreshes us.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
Donal Neary SJ