July 3, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Christ promises light burdens, rest for weary hearts

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30).

The Gospel reading for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, which we will hear this weekend, is both a comfort and a challenge.

St. Matthew tells us that Jesus “exclaimed” words of praise to the Father: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones” (Mt 11:25). We can take comfort in these words only if we are not so arrogant that we consider ourselves wise or learned when it comes to the mysteries of life.

In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus frequently tells us that childlike innocence—not worldly wisdom—is what’s needed to comprehend his teaching and to experience the fullness of life. The Beatitudes reveal Jesus’ vision of what is necessary to live in peace with ourselves, our neighbors and our God. We must be like Jesus himself—meek and humble of heart—if we wish to find true peace and lasting joy in our troubled world.

Jesus never promises that we will be free from the burdens of human existence. He himself suffered terribly at the hands of cruel people (religious leaders, government officials and a fickle, angry mob). He knows the burdens that oppress us. He also knows that only self-sacrificing love can ease our burdens and relieve our sorrow.

This is the great paradox of Christian life. We cannot escape our burdens, but we can lighten them if we embrace Jesus’ words: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Blessed are we when we stop fighting and start trusting in the Lord. True strength comes from acceptance (meekness) and from the childlike humility of one who is spiritually wise.

These are comforting words at a time when we have all experienced the burdens of life in a time of pandemic. During the past months, many of us have come face to face with sickness and death, anxiety and fear, emotional and economic hardships of all kinds. We have also witnessed the resurgence of racism, social injustice and the out-of-control responses of civil unrest, looting and riots in communities all across our nation.

Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest ” (Mt 11:28), are especially comforting now, but they also challenge us to change our ways of thinking and acting. The rest that our Crucified Lord promises is not passive or indifferent. It requires us to take up our own crosses and, by modeling our lives on the humility and generosity of Jesus, to dedicate ourselves to helping others by sharing their suffering and carrying their burdens.

The yoke that Jesus offers us is lighter than the burdens we carry as a result of selfishness and sin. The understanding that he will give us is the truth that God the Father has hidden from the wise and learned. His rest is the peace we receive when we have set aside our own interests and helped others carry their burdens.

As St. Paul tells us in the second reading this Sunday (Rm 8:9, 11-13), “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you ” (Rom 8:11). The life given to us by the Holy Spirit is what makes our burdens light and gives rest to our weary hearts. With God’s help, we can endure many hardships and accept serious suffering even as we help our sisters and brothers carry their own loads and diminish whatever causes them pain.

The only way to the peace and joy of the resurrection is by way of the cross of Christ. If we can embrace this mystery with the meekness and humility of children, we will be relieved of much unnecessary anxiety. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:30)

Let’s take up the yoke Jesus offers us. Let’s accept the Lord’s challenge and let go of self-centeredness and sin. If we succeed in following Jesus on the way of the cross, we will discover how light his burden really is, and we will know peace. As St. Paul reminds us, if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we will have life in Christ. †

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