Jul 5, 2014

14th Sunday: Come to Me

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened."

Zechariah 9:9-10
Romans 8:9.11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

On our recent trip to Ireland, we spent about two and a half days in northern Ireland and the city of Belfast.  We have heard over the years of the tensions between the Protestant and Catholic populations of that region and the historical and political evolution since the time of King Henry VIII with claims of English sovereignty over that region of the nation of Ireland.  Scenes of the most recent struggle were everywhere and although peaceful at this time one most disturbing image have remained with me.

In an area of the city of Belfast there is a very high wall built between two sides of the road: a separation between the Protestant sectors and the Catholic sectors of the City. 


The wall was clearly raised higher over the years, and is topped by very tall fencing which rises to a substantial height. A wall between warring factions based upon a mix of politics and religion.  If the wall were to come down, what would happen? Fortunately, we also saw signs of peace and reconciliation and heard of substantial efforts being made to calm the “hot heads” of revolution but how fragile is that type of peace?

In our readings this Sunday we hear of peace and reconciliation.  The prophet Zechariah writes of great hopes for a “king” who “shall come to you” and “proclaim peace to the nations” whose dominion “shall be from sea to sea.”  Immediately our thoughts go to Palm Sunday and Jesus’ glorious entrance to Jerusalem riding on a donkey, which is mentioned in this reading as well.  What human king has ever brought such peace and would such a vast promise of a kingdom from “sea to sea” even be possible for any kind of king except God himself?

No need to build walls between warring peoples for this king will come with peaceful intentions, in humility seeking the common good of all. What he brings is “Shalom” for all who would accept it.  And that word implies not a fragile peace built on fear but a deep reconciliation and forgiveness between all people.  The king himself will be peace – he will be the shalom we all desire.

But, let’s face it, we all know how tenuous and difficult making peace can be.  Nations such as Ireland and so many others, including our own, have a long history of periods of war and peace.  Often in the midst of war we also see signs of peace. People die for the cause on both sides of the battle and we all turn to and hope for some person or some concrete efforts that can hold it together.

The Gospel words of Jesus today may hold the key to that hope for us.  It begins with Jesus praising his Father for revealing the truths of the Gospel not to those consumed with intellectual pride but to “the little ones.”  In a disposition of humility, when we know that our wisdom, however learned or full of academic degrees, is no equal to God’s wisdom can we be open to accept the truths of the Gospel that Jesus revealed to us.   It was once said:  “The heart not the head is the home of the Gospel.” Again it is God desiring a relationship with us, which is a matter of the heart, which is the key to living this Christian way of life and the key to peace between ourselves and all others.

Then Jesus moves to the image of a yoke. For ancient Jews, their faith was filled with regulations, laws, and “thou shalt not’s. Religion was viewed more as a heavy burden, like the yoke placed around the neck of oxen pulling heavy carts, than a joyful relationship with a loving God. Fulfilling all the prescriptions and letters of the law was impossible for nearly everyone yet the burden continued to be laid heavy.  

Likewise Jesus speaks of a yoke but not one that is imposed on us but rather one that is “easy and light.” Because Jesus walks with us, side by side like two oxen sharing in the burden of pulling a heavy load which, because of their mutual effort, becomes easier for both, this yoke is not imposed upon us but a sharing in the life of Jesus tempered with his mercy and forgiveness.  In fact Jesus states it is “my yoke.”

We all want peace and we all want to live in harmony with one another.  We learn today that the key to that is to approach our God in humility, repentance, and reconciliation.  And although the life of any Christian is not always hearts and flowers, no matter how “heavy” the yoke of life may become, Jesus shares that with us.

Our Eucharist is a reminder that we do not walk this road alone.  Our brothers and sisters are there for us after the example of Christ himself and we are called to bear the load with them.
May this oblation dedicated to your name
purify us, O Lord,
and day by day bring our conduct
closer to the life of heave.
Through Christ our Lord.
(Prayer over Gifts for Sunday)