14 Sunday A: Come to me all who are laboured:



Starters:
“Do you have any idea who I am?" 

The Los Angeles Times published the story of a commercial airline flight cancellation which resulted in a long line of travelers trying to get bookings on another flight. One man in the line grew increasingly impatient with the slow-moving line.  At last, he pushed his way to the front and angrily demanded a first-class ticket on the next available flight. "I’m sorry," said the ticket agent, “First I’ll have to take care of the people who were ahead of you in the line." The irate man then pounded his fist on the ticket counter, saying, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Whereupon, the ticket agent picked up the public address microphone and said, "Attention, please! There is a gentleman at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. If there is anyone in the airport who can identify him, please come to the counter." Hearing this, the man retreated, and the people waiting in line burst into applause.   We are like this man. We have forgotten how to wait patiently. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to learn his meekness and humility. (Tony Kadavil)
 ”Veni, vidi, dormivi”:  

National Public Radio had a story about a club that has been formed at a high school in Greenwich, Connecticut. The club is called the Power Nap Club! A group of students go to a room at the end of the school day where they turn off the lights, put their heads on their desks, plug in a tape of quiet classical music, and take what they call a “power nap” for about a half hour. “Their club tee-shirts are decorated with a cardinal (the school mascot), wearing a little nightcap on his head. Inscribed on the tee-shirt is a new version of an old Latin motto, ‘Veni, vidi, dormivi: I came, I saw, I slept!’ The club was formed not because these are lazy high school students, but exactly the reverse. These kids are going to school all day, participating in sports, volunteering in the community,  going  to  church  or  mosque  or  synagogue,  and  holding  down part-time jobs.  They’re exhausted. And they’ve learned  that  just a  little  nap makes all the difference in the world” (Carlton Young). In today’s gospel, Jesus says to us and to them, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Tony Kadavil)
*************
My Mother taught me Humility and Real Responsibility:

Indra Nooyi from Chennai, India is the fifth CEO in PepsiCo's 44-year history. She recounted the day 14 years ago when she was told that she would be made president of PepsiCo and be named to the board of directors.

She said she was "overwhelmed" but her mother's reaction was, she said, "let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk."

Ms Nooyi recalled her mother telling her when she reacted to , "let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you're the wife, you're the daughter, you're the daughter-in-law, you're the mother. You're all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don't bring it into the house."

"You know I've never seen that crown," the corporate honcho said.


***********
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

Every Sunday we gather here because we have heard the Lord’s invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’ We rejoice that God in his generosity has given us this day of rest, this day of rejoicing, this day when we can just be happy and reflect on the wonder of the creation. 

***********
Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments

Today’s passage is best understood as a wonderful summary of the “Little Way” of St Thérèse of Lisieux. For those who are acquainted with the spiritual teaching of the Saint, it is an opportunity to celebrate her and all she has meant to the Church and to the world of our time.  Like all bible passages, this one teaches by way of story. It records a moment of intense emotion in the life of Jesus, when he “exclaims” i.e. utters a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.

The experience was particular to Jesus but as always with lectio divina we are invited to enter into it, recognizing with gratitude that we and great people who have touched our lives have lived similar moments. They have been “wisdom moments”, i.e. taught us some important lessons about human living.

 Jesus reflects on three aspects of his life:
a) verses 25 and 26: the learned and the clever did not understand him but “mere children” did;
 b) verse 27: his relationship with his heavenly father;
 c) verses 28 to 30: his ministry to those who are overburdened by the religion of his time.

 We read the passage as one continuous flow, interpreting each section in the light of the other two. 

Verses 25 and 26. The Jewish community which Jesus ministered to was divided into two categories: (a) those who knew and practiced the law and (b) those who did neither. Jesus experiences that those barriers are of no consequence – the experts in the law didn’t understand him whereas the others did – and this moves him very deeply. Note the adjective “mere” – they were considered of no consequence. 

Jesus’ overall response is positive; he is not concerned with those who don’t understand, his entire focus is on the wisdom of the little ones. He is like Mary in the Magnificat celebrating the “lowly lifted up” rather than rejoicing at “the mighty cast down”. 

We too have had moments when we became aware of the greatness of those we had previously looked down upon:

- men and women who never darken the doors of a church turned out to be “holy” people;
 - those with little formal education shared insights which we had never thought of;
 - the children of dysfunctional families became wonderful parents.

We remember our feelings then – how wrong we had been! what good news that we had been wrong!  The “mere children” need not be people.  We can interpret them of aspects of ourselves that we tend to disown – our weak points, failures, jealousies, feelings of insecurity.  One day we realize that in order to see reality more clearly we must see the world with the eyes of a child and renounce our need/desire to find security in power or status – being “learned and clever”. 

We celebrate moments when perhaps for the first time we  appreciated:

 - the beauty of nature
 - the greatness of others
 - the potential in a community.

The passage is a lived experience of Jesus’ teaching that unless we are converted and become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

In verse 27 Jesus remembers that he himself was a “mere child” in the presence of his heavenly Father. The passage is recognized to be difficult. Many scholars read it as a testimony to Jesus’ unique relationship with God the Father – in parallel with similar testimonies in St John’s Gospel. It therefore becomes a “proof text” that he was truly God. But the “law” of lectio divina that I mentioned above must apply to this verse in particular  – the only way to understand a bible passage is from personal experience. 

Lectio reminds us that by the incarnation Jesus does not merely reveal God, he reveals us to ourselves. He invites us to share his unique experience, even though on a lower level. 

Furthermore we approach the passage “from below” remembering our deep human relationships, e.g. with a spouse, a colleague, a “soul friend”;  the relationship then becomes a “parable” of our relationship with God. 

The passage looks at two aspects of Jesus’ relationship with the Father,

 - trust, in verse 27a,
- “knowing”  in verse 27b.

 Verse 27a tells us that for Jesus (and for us) “everything” in the relationship is a gift, temporarily “entrusted to us” by a loving Father. This is how “mere children” relate with adults. 

“Know” in 27b has the biblical meaning of “have a very intimate relationship”  (in the bible “know” often means “have sexual intercourse with”).

“No one knows except … ” is also a biblical way of speaking. It indicates the intensity of the relationship, “I know you in way that no one in the world does”. It is like the passages which speak of Israel as Good’s “only” or “first- begotten” son which mean, “my love for you is very special”. Parents will understand this; they know about loving each of their children as an “only child”. 

Verse 27c adds that Jesus has shared with others his intimacy with the Father. The verse is saying two things:

- his ministry (like ours) consists in initiating  people into intimacy with God;
- he “chooses”, in the sense that he puts the stamp of his freedom on the relationship he establishes: “life (the Lord) sent you on my path, and I have turned what was a chance meeting into a personal choice.”

Verses 28 to 30 draw the conclusion from the first two sections: because Jesus has experienced life as a gift, his followers are truly free.  In the time of Jesus (as in our time) religion had become a matter of keeping commandments; people experienced it as “labour”; they felt “overburdened” by it.  Jesus changed that; he made religion an experience of freedom. He challenged his followers to reach beyond their narrow concerns, but they experienced this “yoke” as “easy” and this “burden” as “light”. We celebrate people who did that for us. 

We interpret “gentle and humble of heart” in the light of the two previous sections. It means being able to accept weakness (being mere children) in the presence of God. Our interpretation will be based on personal experience – we think of people who made life’s challenges easy to bear and recognize how they were gentle and humble of heart. 

We can interpret the passage as a celebration  of the teaching method of the great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, as taught in his famous work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We can identify the three stages of the passage, starting with the third:

- teaching must not be a “burdensome” transferring of facts (the “banking method” of education) but an initiation to  freedom;
 - for true teachers knowledge is a sacred trust they grow into, side by side with their students;
 - the sign of a good teaching method is that the lowly understand things hidden from the learned and the clever (including the teacher).  

Prayer Reflection 

Heavenly Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

 we thank you that you have hidden things from the learned and the clever
 and revealed them to mere children;
 yes, Father, that is what it has pleased you to do.

Lord, we always tend to form groups where we feel superior to others and listen only to one another,

 - as a Church and as groups within the Church;
 - within ethnic groups and social classes;
 - within our families and communities.
 We thank you for those precious moments when you break down the barriers we have set up,
 surprising us by hiding things from us and revealing them to those we considered mere children:
washing_feet1  – someone we thought a sinner taught us true loyalty or love;
 - a child we looked on as inferior said a word that brought peace to our family;
 - young people accomplished something we adults had not been able to do;
 - a group we had written off as unemployable organized themselves into a co-op.
 At that moment you were calling us to poverty of spirit
 whereby we recognize you as Lord of heaven and earth.

Lord, we pray that our Church may be a presence of Jesus in our country:

 - always on the lookout for those who are looked down upon as mere children;
 - grateful when you reveal things to them that have been hidden from the learned and the clever;
 - and proclaiming your love to the world.

Lord, we thank you for moments of intimacy and sharing,

 when friends opened themselves to us in trust,
 letting us know them as no one knew them,
 and we felt known as we had never been known,
 and there was no worry about our trust being betrayed.
 
These were truly sacred moments when we experienced your love and your trust.
We pray today for families,
 that they may be living experiences of your Holy Trinity,
 with trust between parents and children,
 parents letting themselves be known by their children
 and children letting themselves be known by their parents,
 and children free to invite whoever they like into that place of trust.

Lord, there are people in our society who are overburdened:

- society makes them feel responsible for the country;
 - their sins appear more shameful than the sins of more respectable people;
 - they are caught in a trap of poverty and lack the energy to get out.
 We pray that as a Church we may not add to their burdens.

 Help us on the contrary to come to them like Jesus,

 - with respect and trust and in a spirit of dialogue;
 - with humility and gentleness of heart,
 so that they may feel themselves understood and so find rest for their souls.

Lord, we pray today for those who feel called to undertake some burden:

 - to accept death or illness;
 - to forgive an enemy;
 - to let a loved one go;
 - to involve themselves in a struggle for justice.

 Help them to trust you,

 that you know how they labour and are overburdened,
 that you are gentle and humble of heart,
 and they will find the yoke easy and the burden light. 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for moments of deep prayer

 when we experience that everything is your gift entrusted to us.
 Others misunderstand us, but we feel you understand,
 and we say no one knows us except you;
 we feel so close to you, we can say no one knows you except us;
 so close to those we minister to,
 we can say those whom we have chosen to reveal you to also know you. 

Lord, religion often becomes a matter of keeping commandments,  a heavy burden to bear.

 We thank  you for sending us teachers like Jesus,
 so gentle and humble in heart that we find rest for our souls;
 they lay a yoke on us but it is easy,
 they ask us to bear a burden but it is light. 

Lord, we thank you for the gift of St Thérèse of Lisieux.

 Truly you revealed things to this mere child
 which you hid from the learned and the clever among her contemporaries,
 yes Father that is what it pleased you to do;
 - she knew that whatever she had was entrusted to her by you,
 - she felt herself known by you in a way that no one else knew her,
 - she knew you as no one else knew you, and those to whom she taught her Little Way,
 - she called to her all who felt religion as a labour and a burden and she gave them rest;
 - we have learnt humility and gentleness of heart from her and we found rest for our souls;
 - we found her yoke easy and her burden light.

*********************************************************
Homily Notes 

1. The challenge with a text such as today’s gospel is to find something particular that can give expression to the aspect of the kergyma which it represents. I am picking up the notion of the rest that God gives us, and particularising it in terms of the notion of Sunday as the divine gift of a day of rest.  

2. This is, of course, an ancient theme. And, deviant notions of Sabbatarianism apart, there has been a standard way to pre­sent both the Sabbath (in Jewish sources) and Sunday (among Christians) down the ages. These presentations have a common theme: ‘This is the day.’ Whether it is the day of creating or resting from creating, or the day of resurrection or some other day. Then this actual day, Sunday now, is a means of participating in that original’ day’. This notion that time forms mystical unity with the fundamental moments in the history of salvation is deeply embedded in both Jewish sundayfundayand Christian notions of ritual and celebration. However, possibly Christmas and Easter apart, they seem not to excite people today in the way they did until quite recently. Whatever has caused this change is one matter, the fact is that in a ‘leisure society’ the notion of a Day of Rest, or a Day belonging to the Lord, just does not move people – even if they are Christians. This can be seen in that many people are willing to opt for alternative ‘worship services’ that would take place on weekday evenings because they do not want to have ‘to go on Sunday’ as it ‘messes up their weekend’. The time of leisure, the weekend, is so sacrosanct that it cannot even be interrupted for prayer. Older books spoke of the di­chotomy of people who gave ‘Sunday to God; the rest to mammon’; now it is more complex. Monday to Friday is for work and duties; weekends are pure leisure time; God does not belong to my leisure time, so he can be squeezed in dur­ing the week.  

3. So how do you speak about Sunday and’ a day of rest’ to people when many of those listening will be viewing their presence there as an interruption in their leisure time? Indeed, there will be individuals in every assembly who will be suf­fering from stress because of the tension that her /his decision to go the Eucharist has caused their families who see it as an unwarranted interruption the family’s leisure. Today, in every society where there is a five-day week and work is limited by a maximum number of hours, Sunday is a problem for Christians! 

4. The first step is to acknowledge the problem. Ask rhetorically how many know this dialogue: the family want to go somewhere on Sunday and to leave to get there for lunchtime. Only one parent is a church-goer. That person’s desire to attend the Eucharist is throwing the plans out. So someone asks: ‘Why can’t you just skip church this week – you can worship God anywhere – you don’t need to go into a special building!’ Reply: ‘It’s not as simple as that!’ Another voice: ‘Well, OK, but can you not make an exception for today, it’s such a nice day!’ Reply: ‘But I made an exception last week and this week I’m down on the list to do the reading!’ Another: ‘Oh Yes! Someone else’s list. 

Strange religion this: someone else is more important than your family’s happiness. Strange religion this! Loving God means you don’t love your family.’ Another voice: ‘You better go on to your Mass. We’re too late to get there now anyway. You might as well go off and look after your religion!’  

5. This acknowledgment of the stress that many are under can be a way of ventilating a problem that people have never named and itself lessens the stress and the consequent feelings of guilt.

Jesus light of world6. So the first step in preaching Sunday is to say to people that resting is having burdens removed: so, just for now, relax. God loves us and knows the strains and stresses we live with. 

7. Then, step two, just point out the irony: in a ‘leisure society’ the pressures to use ‘leisure time’ often become so great, that the time is as stressed as for work-time. We have industri­alised leisure time! How much leisure is left? Yet God wants us to have leisure and rest from work. 

8. Life is greater than our pressures and concerns and work: that is the insight of the Day of rest being the Lord’s Day. Our life is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet, if we do not reflect regularly on this, and be’ thankful to God for all his gifts – of which life is basic – we lose the plot and lose the leisure. That is why we Christians call on ourselves to stop regularly, relax and reflect on life and work and leisure, and to bless the Father for his goodness. And our word for ‘blessing the Father’ is Eucharist. 

************
1.     The Connections:   

THE WORD: 

Rarely outside of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ intimacy with the Father so clearly portrayed as in today’s Gospel from Matthew.  Jesus offers a hymn of praise to his Father, the holy Creator of all who deeply loves his creation as a father loves his children.  The great love of God for all of humanity is revealed in the love of his Son, the Messiah. 

Religion as a “yoke” was exactly how Jesus' Jewish listeners saw the Law.  They saw their faith as a burden, a submission to a set of endless rules and regulations dictating every dimension of their lives.  But Jesus describes his “yoke” as “easy.”  The Greek word used here that we translate as “easy” more accurately means “fitting well.”  In Palestine, ox yokes were custom-made of wood, cut and measured to fit a particular animal.  Jesus is proposing here a radical change in attitude regarding faith:  Our relationship with God is not based on how meticulously we keep a certain set of rules and regulations (a direct challenge to the long-held view of the scribes and Pharisees) but in the depth of our love of God, reflected in our love of others.  Our relationship with God is not based on subjugation and weariness but on hope and joy. 

There is also an important political dimension to these verses.  Matthew’s Gospel was written a short time after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. by the soldier-emperor Vespasian.  For both the Jewish and the new Christian communities, it was a time of painful introspection:  Would Israel’s hope for the political restoration of the Jewish state ever be realized?   While orthodox Jews maintained unwavering fidelity to their people, language and sense of nationalism, the Christian “cult” saw their ultimate destiny not in the political restoration of Israel but in the coming of the reign of God -- a reign that embraces not just Jews but all men and women, even Israel's most despised enemies.  Jewish suspicion of the Christian community was growing as the new group became more and more disaffected by the Jewish political agenda.  Jesus’ words on gentleness and humility set off sparks between loyal Jews and Christians who were abandoning the cause.  

HOMILY POINTS: 

When Christ calls his disciples to embrace the simple faith of “little ones,” he is not saying that our approach to faith should be “dumbed down” to the level of children.  Christ is calling us, instead, to embrace a faith that is centered in the “simple” but profound love, compassion and hope of God: love that is not compromised by self-interest and rationalization; compassion that is not measured but offered totally and unreservedly, completely and without limit or condition; hope that is centred in gratitude for the many ways God’s presence is revealed in our midst.  It is an approach to faith that is not compromised by “adult” complexities and complications but embraced with “child-like” directness and optimism.   

To love one another as God has loved us, to serve one another as Christ the Savior serves God’s people, is a yoke that is “easy” (“fitting well”) in calling us to love as we are, using whatever gifts God has given us to give voice to our faith; a yoke that is “light” in its sense of joy and the fulfilment and meaning it gives our lives. 

Today’s readings speak of humility: recognizing that before God we are all debtors, that we have done nothing to deserve the life we have been given, that we are owed nothing from God or life.  Humility is to realize how blessed we have been by God through no merit of our own, and to respond to such goodness with a constant sense of gratefulness, realizing that every breath we take is a gift from a Creator whose love knows neither limit nor condition.     

“You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to little ones . . .
“Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart . . . ”

Matthew 11: 25-30  

The Gospel of service 

One of the “saints” of the Zen religion is a priest named Tetsugen, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith into Japanese. 

Many years ago the priest sought to print several thousand copies of the books in order to make the texts of Japan’s religion available to everyone.  He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing.  Rich and poor alike donated to the project.  The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies. 

After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter.  The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless. 

Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again.  It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book.  But an epidemic spread across the country.  Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care the sick, the suffering and dying. 

A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. 

The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto.  The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book -- the first two are invisible but far superior to the third.

Jesus invites us to embrace the joyful sense of fulfillment that can only be realized by “learning” from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his ‘yoke’ of humble, joyful service to one another as we journey together to the dwelling place of God.  Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the generosity and compassion we extend to others.  In our work for justice, in our dedication to reconciliation, in our welcome to all approach our tables, we make the word of God of a living reality in our own time and place.  
 
**********
2.     Fr. Brian Harrison:

Jesus, meek and humble of heart

Purpose: Today’s readings provide one of the most wonderful opportunities, in the three-year Sunday cycle, for preachers to awaken, foment, and nourish, among their listeners, that personal love of our Savior which, as recent popes have consistently emphasized, is central to “the Joy of the Gospel,” and thus for the “new evangelization” of our traditionally Christian, but now radically secularized, culture. Today’s Gospel (Mt. 11: 25-30) is a key biblical text underlying devotion to, and worship of, Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart; indeed, it was also the Gospel reading for that Solemnity just nine days ago. Since the great majority of worshipers this weekend will not have attended that Friday Mass, we recommend homilies that strongly promote this devotion: Make today an unofficial “Sacred Heart Sunday”!

Today’s Scripture readings bring to light one of the sublime paradoxes of the Gospel: the surpassing greatness of the true God, as he is revealed to us in Christ, is shown precisely in his littleness, his gentleness, his humility. Clearly, these are qualities made possible for an eternal and almighty Creator only through the mystery of the Incarnation.

Thus, in the first reading from Zechariah’s prophecy, Israel, personified as the “daughter of Zion,” is given a vision that is to be fulfilled centuries later on Palm Sunday: the Savior king comes to his people as one who is “meek, and riding on an ass.” It is a vision in which Israel “rejoices heartily”a rejoicing that has now cascaded its way to a permanent place in Christian culture ever since G.F. Handel immortalized Zechariah’s words in a radiant, soaring soprano aria of his great oratorio, “Messiah.” That same cultural heritage led to another moment of dramatic symbolism when, in 1917, the Holy City was captured from the Turks and came under the control of a Christian power for the first time since the crusading era. The British commander, General Edmund Allenby, had a deep respect for Jerusalem’s sacred heritage, and was unwilling to make his own entry in a manner similar to that of the “King of Kings.” Thus, on December 11, 1917, eschewing all elevation upon the backs of horses, or even donkeys, Allenby and his men made their formal entry into the conquered city on foot and in silence. Exactly eight years later, Pope Pius XI promulgated his great encyclical, Quas Primas, on the rightful sovereignty of Christ over every human society.

Christianized societies, too, have often fallen very short of Gospel teachings in their communal behavior. Nevertheless, what a contrast there is between this holy joy elicited by the Messianic King’s example of simplicity and modesty compared to the fierce, undisguised accolades to power, pride, and violence that, in every age, greet boastful displays of worldly pagan might! The spirit of a typical Roman conqueror’s processional triumph through the streets of the capital in early Christian times, dragging slaves and doomed captives behind his chariot in degraded humiliation, seems very little different from the spirit which, two millennia later, animated Hitler’s gargantuan Nazi rallies at Nuremberg,  or Stalin’s parades through Red Square, that showcased endless rows of a Soviet arsenal portending massive death and destruction.

Today’s Gospel builds on Zechariah’s exhortation to rejoice in the quiet meekness of Israel’s King. For here we find our Lord praising the Father, precisely for having revealed the secrets of the Kingdom to “little ones”the lowly and unletteredrather than to the wise and learned. In fact, we learn from Luke’s account of this same incident (10: 21) that Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” as he lifted up this praise to God the Father. It seems significant that this is the only moment recorded in any of the Gospels in which we are explicitly told that our Lord rejoiced. This passage thus reveals to us something that lies deep within the Sacred Heart of Jesus: his profound longing to identify in a special way with the least of those brethren whose human nature he has come to share: humble working men and women, including sinners (“strayed sheep”), children, and those who are poor, sick, suffering, outcastin short, all those who are not great and important in the eyes of the world.

This meekness of the Messiah King leads to a deeper appreciation of the central paradox of Christ’s Gospel the Incarnation. The one whose human heart is filled with joy as he shares the lot of these “little ones” is, at the same time, the One whose eternal nature is infinitely higher than theirs! In this one short, but sublime, Gospel text we see both the “heights” and the “depths” of Jesus’ unique identity. In language that is rare in the Synoptics, but very similar to that of St. John’s Gospel, our Lord implicitly affirms his own divinity. He claims a unique reciprocal relationship with the Father, who has handed over to him “all things”: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.” Only God can intuitively know the depths of God.

And yet, this Son of God—so far above us in his divine nature—shows us the full extent of what divine love is really like by coming down to our level. Precisely because he has shared our own burdens—even death on a Cross!—in the weakness of human flesh, the one who is “meek and humble of heart” is able to give us real, and not merely, verbal, comfort and “rest” in our sufferings, thus lightening that “burden” and “yoke” which he himself asks of us as a condition of discipleship.

ILLUSTRATIONS:

1.     Sermons.com  

There is a wonderful legend concerning the quiet years of Jesus, the years prior to his visible ministry. The legend claims that Jesus the carpenter was one of the master yoke-makers in the Nazareth area. People came from miles around for a yoke, hand carved and crafted by Jesus son of Joseph. 

When customers arrived with their team of oxen Jesus would spend considerable time measuring the team, their height, the width, the space between them, and the size of their shoulders. Within a week, the team would be brought back and he would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to this particular team of oxen. 

That's the yoke Jesus invites us to take. Do not be misled by the word "easy," for its root word in Greek speaks directly of the tailor-made yokes: they were "well-fitting." The yoke Jesus invites us to take, the yoke that brings rest to weary souls, is one that is made exactly to our lives and hearts. The yoke he invites us to wear fits us well, does not rub us nor cause us to develop sore spirits and is designed for two. His yokes were always designed for two. And our yoke-partner is none other than Christ himself...

A mother was preparing breakfast for her two-year-old daughter. She asked the toddler, "What would you like for breakfast--a bagel or a bowl of cereal?"
 The little girl answered, "Chocolate."
 "No," her mother replied, "You can't have chocolate for breakfast. Do you want a bagel or cereal?"
 Again the little girl said, "Chocolate."
 Slightly exasperated, the mother said, "No, honey. You can't have my chocolate until after lunch. Now what do you want . . .a bagel or cereal?"
The little girl said with a grin, "Lunch!" (as told by Don Colbert, What Would Jesus Eat? [2002], 145). 

Cravings. We all get them. Whether they are the need for ice cream at midnight, or hot wings during the big game, or some Sunday evening yearning for a mystery casserole your grandmother cooked up when you were eight. We crave flavors with our taste buds, but even more we crave them with our memories, and our souls.  

As life unfolds our "good food" memories are too often gradually replaced by appetites of a different nature. Instead of sweet or salty, savory or creamy, we desire more expensive, heady, sometimes toxic mixtures. Our appetite is whetted not by honey or gravies, but by success, by advancements, by money, by security, by power... 
____________________
A Beautiful Doxology 

Early one morning some years ago, Robert Raines got into his car and started driving through the mountains. There was no one on the road (at that time) as the mountains were quietly beginning a new day. The beautiful colors of autumn were splashed all over the trees. It was a magnificent and glorious sight as the early morning sun glistened upon the wonders of the mountains and the valleys below.

And then it happened... Robert Raines saw one of the most beautiful things he had ever witnessed in his life.

Right there at the very edge of that great mountain peak and facing the gorgeous valley below... was a young man in his early twenties with a trumpet pressed to his lips. And, do you know what he was playing? With his lungs expanded fully and releasing all of the energy in his soul, he was playing the Doxology on his trumpet!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

The point is clear: With all the stresses and problems in this life, still the truth is:
- We have so many doxologies to sing,
- So much to be grateful for,
- So many blessings to count.

The point is: Life is more than a grueling endurance test. Life is more than a survival game. Life is more than a coping competition.

So, you see... it's not enough to just escape the stress. It's not enough to just endure the stress. Thank God... there is another option...
James W. Moore, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
________________________________
 Counter-cultural Surrender 

There is something quite important for us to understand as we celebrate Independence Day. There is a "flip flop" quality to understanding today's scripture. It goes counter to our usual way of thinking. America is the home of Davey Crocket who conquered the "wild frontier" and Wyatt Earp who tamed the "wild west." We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, strength and the glory of a "self-made" man or woman. Surrender is what we did not do. With brains and brawn we became a super power in the world. "Yankee Ingenuity" is the brilliance that made us great. Resisting the yoke others would put on us is the strength that made us free.

Now Jesus comes along to say that wisdom and intelligence did not cut the mustard when it comes to knowing God. Not only is the yoke not to be resisted, we are to voluntarily take this yoke upon ourselves and surrender to one who is greater than us!
 

How counter-cultural can you get? We can not fight, or think or power ourselves into the kingdom of God and the peace of Christ. 

John Jewell, Knowing God
______________________________
 The Discipline of Simplicity 

In Richard Foster's book of discipline he divides discipline into three parts: Inward, Outward, and Corporate discipline. He places simplicity under the category of the Outward Disciplines. Here are his nine ways to order our world so that we can create simplicity in our life. 

First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
Third, develop a habit of giving things away.
Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them.
Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
Seventh, look at a healthy skepticism at all "buy now, pay later" schemes.
Eighth, obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.
Ninth, reject anything that will breed the oppression of others.
Tenth, shun whatever would distract you from you main goal: "Seek first the kingdom of God."
 

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.
_____________________________
 The Sweetest Sound 

There is a story that Hebrew families tell their children to help them understand the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment reads, "Six days you shall labor but on the seventh you shall rest." The story is called, "The Sweetest Sound." The main character in the story is King Ruben. It goes something like this.

The king asked his royal subjects, "What is the sweetest melody of all?" Early the next morning they gathered all sorts of musicians. The sound awoke the king and all morning he listened to their tunes. But, after listening to all of them he could not tell which was the sweetest sound. Finally, one subject suggested they all play together. It was so noisy the king couldn't think.

About that moment a woman, dressed in her Sunday best, pushed to the front of the crowd and stepped forward. "O, king," she said, "I have the answer to your question." The king was surprised since she had no instrument. "Why didn't you come earlier?" he asked. She replied, "I had to wait until the setting of the sun." The musicians were still playing and the king told them all to stop.

The woman then took two candles and placed them on the king's balcony rail. She lit them just as the sun continued to set. The flames glowed in the evening darkness. She then lifted her voice and said, "Blessed art thou, O Lord, Our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with the commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights." She then said, "He who has an ear, let him hear."


Everyone was completely still. "What is that?" asked the king." He could not hear a sound. The woman then replied, "What you hear is the sound of rest, the sweetest melody of all."

Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is also the sweetest sound any of us can hear.
 

Keith Wagner, True Freedom
________________________________
 A Contented Man 

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. 

David Leininger, Ask the Average Person, www.eSermons.com
__________________________________
 Did You Use All Your Strength? 

I remember an old story about a little boy who was out helping dad with the yard work. Dad asked him to pick up the rocks in a certain area of the yard. Dad looked over and saw him struggling to pull up a huge rock buried in the dirt. The little boy struggled and struggled while Dad watched. Finally, the boy gave up and said, "I can't do it." Dad asked, "Did you use all of your strength?" The little boy looked hurt and said, "Yes, sir. I used every ounce of strength I have." The father smiled and said, "No you didn't. You didn't ask me to help." The father walked over and then the two of them pulled that big rock out of the dirt. 

One of the great Biblical truths seems impossible. Liberty comes through being yoked with Christ.

Billy D. Strayhorn, Freedom through the Yoke
_______________________
Our Value in God's Eyes 

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of two hundred, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 bill to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air. 

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To God, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are always priceless." 

Traditional
_____________________________
 Rest 

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did." 

"But you didn't notice," said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest." 

___________________________
 Don't Miss Life 

Frank Lloyd Wright, the world-famous architect, told how a lecture he received at the age of nine helped set his philosophy of life. An uncle, a stolid, no-nonsense type, had taken him for a long walk across a snow-covered field. At the far side, his uncle told him to look back at their two sets of tracks. "See, my boy," he said, "how your footprints go aimlessly back and forth from those trees, to the cattle, back to the fence then over there where you were throwing sticks? But notice how my path comes straight across, directly to my goal. You should never forget this lesson!" "And I never did," Wright said. "I determined right then not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had." 

2.     From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.     1: “Lord, I've done the best I can.”  

 Pope St. John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council days used to submit all his anxieties to God by this prayer every night: “Lord, Jesus, I’m going to bed. It's your Church. Take care of it!”  The President Dwight David Eisenhower knew about that inner rest derived from submitting daily lives to God. He had it even while he was the leader of armed forces in World War II. His every decision during that awful conflict had monumental consequences. How did he deal with the pressure? Ike shared with his former pastor, Dean Miller that he didn't try to carry his burden alone. Some nights when the strain became too great, Eisenhower would simply pray, "Lord, with your grace I've done the best I can. You take over until morning." And he understood very well Jesus’ advice in today’s Gospel: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28).

2.     Disturbing statistics on stress:  

A few years ago, The Comprehensive Care Corporation of Tampa, Florida published a booklet about stress in our modern world. The facts are disturbing. (1) One out of four (that’s 25% of the American People) suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, loneliness and other painful symptoms which are attributed mainly to stress. (2) Four out of five adult family members see a need for less stress in their daily lives. (3) Approximately half of all diseases can be linked to stress-related origins, including ulcers, colitis, bronchial asthma, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. (4) Unmanaged stress is a leading factor in homicides, suicides, child abuse, spouse abuse and other aggravated assaults. (5) The problem of stress is taking a tremendous toll economically, also. In our nation alone, we Americans are now spending 64.9 billion dollars a year trying to deal with the issue of stress. That is why Jesus shared the “good news” with us a long time ago when He said: “Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). 

3.     “If I keep my bow always stretched, it will break."  

Once St. Anthony, the hermit, was relaxing with his disciples outside his hut when a hunter came by. The hunter was surprised and mildly shocked to see the saint taking it easy. This was not his idea of what a monk should be doing, and he rebuked the saint. But Anthony said, "Bend your bow and shoot an arrow."  The hunter did so. "Bend it again and shoot another," said Anthony. The hunter did so-- again and again.   At  last  the  hunter said,  ”Father  Anthony,  if  I  keep  my  bow  always stretched, it will break." "So it is with a monk," replied Anthony. "If we push ourselves beyond measure, we will break; it is right from time to time to relax our efforts." Jesus gives us the same message in today’s gospel. 

4.     Rest and peace:  

Doctor: Your husband needs rest and peace. Here are some sleeping pills. Wife: When must I give them to him? Doctor: They are for you... 

5.     The pills for mental rest which makes you restless:  

George came home from the psychiatrist looking very worried. 'What's the problem?' his wife asked. 'The doctor told me I could have no worry and perfect peace of mind if I take a pill every day for the rest of my life.' 'So what? Lots of people have to take a pill every day their whole lives.' 'I know,' said George, 'but the doctor gave me only four pills!' 

6.     In search of rest:  

A man had been driving all night and by morning was still far from his destination. He decided to stop at the next city he came to, and park somewhere quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. As luck would have it, the quiet place he chose happened to be on one of the city's major jogging routes. No sooner had he settled back to snooze when there came a knocking on his window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in place.  "Excuse me, sir," the jogger said, "do you have the time?" The man looked at the car clock and answered, "8:15". The jogger said thanks and left. The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window and another jogger. "Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?" "8:25!" The jogger said thanks and left. Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one disturbed him. To avoid the problem, he got out a pen and paper and put a sign in his window saying, "I do not know the time!" Once again he settled back to sleep. He was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window. "Sir, sir? It's 8:45!." 

7.     The tired part of me is inside and out of reach:  

In 1863, the Civil War was raging and the end was far from sight. Abraham Lincoln was out for a ride with his friend and aide  Noah  Brooks.  Brooks,  noticing  the  president’s  obvious fatigue, suggested that he take a brief rest when they got back to the White House. “A rest,” Lincoln replied, “I don’t know about a rest. I suppose it’s good for the body, but the tired part of me is inside and out of reach.” Lincoln was acknowledging a very important truth. There are many sources of fatigue. Physical fatigue may be the most benign. There is the fatigue that comes from stress, fatigue that comes from worry, fatigue that comes not only from worrying about the future, but also worrying about the past and fatigue that comes from trying to be something we are not. What we really need is not time off nor time away. Rather, what we need is time that is filled with meaning and purpose, that is saturated with the grace of God. What we need, according to this wonderful gospel paradox, is a different burden: the yoke of Christ. 

8.     "I'm afraid they're all wondering where I went."  

An elderly woman at the nursing  home  received  a  visit  from  one  of  her  fellow  church  members.

"How are you feeling?" the visitor asked. "Oh," said the lady, "I'm just worried sick!" "What are you worried about, dear?" her friend asked. "You look like you're in good health. They are taking care of you, aren't they?" "Yes, they are taking very good care of me." "Are you in any pain?" she asked. "No, I have never had a pain in my life." "Well, what are you worried about?" her friend asked again. The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her major worry. "Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to heaven," she said. "I'm afraid they're all wondering where I went." (bounce- jokeseveryday-1807004@ripple.dundee.net ) 

9.     Worriers or warriors?  

Author Stephanie Stokes Oliver in her book, Daily Cornbread, asks whether we are worriers or warriors. Chronic worriers let their anxiety and fear interfere with living their life to the fullest. They manifest their worry in physical symptoms like headaches and knotted muscles. Worriers seem unable to take control of their situation and make a positive change for themselves. Warriors, on the other hand, find healthy ways to deal with their fears. They don't automatically shut down and go into crisis mode. They trust that God will sustain them. Warriors take positive action to change a negative situation. (Stephanie Stokes Oliver, New York: Doubleday, 1999). Astronaut Jim Lovell is a warrior. In a news conference he was asked about Apollo 13. He was in command of that spacecraft when it experienced an explosion on its way to the moon. With their oxygen almost gone, their electrical system out, their spaceship plunging toward lunar orbit, it appeared Lovell and his crew would be marooned hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth. Lovell was asked, "Were you worried?" Such as obvious question drew snickers. But then Lovell gave a surprising answer. "No, not really." he said. "You see, worry is a useless emotion. I was too busy fixing the problem to worry about it. As long as I had one card left to play, I played it." [Second Thoughts--One Hundred Upbeat Messages for Beat-up Americans by Mort Crim (Health Communication, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997), p. 154]. Jim Lovell is a warrior. 

10.  "My yokes fit well."  

In Jesus' time, oxen were linked together by means of a wooden yoke across their necks. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible teaches this about yokes. "The carpenter probably made both yokes and plows. Joseph and Jesus undoubtedly had experience in making yokes." William Barclay makes the following statement in his commentary on Matthew: “There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country men came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth may well have been: "My yokes fit well." It may well be that Jesus is here using a picture from the carpenter's shop in Nazareth where he had worked throughout the silent years. 

11.  WORK, PLAY, LOVE and WORSHIP:  

The Mayo Clinic announced a sure cure for getting rid of that tired feeling. Tests revealed that people are chronically tired because they live unbalanced lives. And so they took Dr. Richard Clark Cabot's famous formula for life - WORK, PLAY, LOVE and WORSHIP. These are the ultimates of life that must be had in proper balance - work, play, love and worship. The Mayo Clinic made them a symbol, four arms of equal length. They said that whenever one or more of those arms becomes a stub, then the result in unhappiness and unhappiness is usually the forerunner of fatigue. Thus, a business man's arm may be long on work but short on play and worship. A debutante's arm may be long on play and short on work. A spinster may be long on work and worship and short on play and love. The old saying that "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" is psychologically sound. And so, all work and no worship leads to chronic fatigue. It's a simple, psychological and physical fact. 

12.  Twenty-four hours’ work:  

Grandpa clocked in long hours on the railroad or in the mines, but when he came home there were no faxes waiting for him to answer, no cellular phones or e-mail to interrupt his after-dinner smoke. Home was home, not a pit stop for data-gathering before heading back to the office. Today, there is no downtime, no escape from other people. We have cell phones in the car and beepers in our pockets. We carry them to the church, to the beach, and to the bathroom. Says Dr. Mark Moskowitz of the Boston Medical Center: 

”A lot of people are working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even when they’re not technically at work. It’s a guaranteed formula for breakdown." Today’s gospel message is for them. 

13.  Shirt of a happy man:  

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. (Pastor's Professional Research Service, "Happiness"). That is why Oscar Wilde wrote, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." He was trying to warn us no matter how hard we work at being successful, success will not satisfy us. By the time we get there, having sacrificed so much on the altar of being successful, we will realize that success was not what we wanted. 

14.  Pacifier for stress:   

A young mother was describing a terrible day she had experienced. The washing machine broke down, the telephone kept ringing, her head ached, and the mail carrier brought a bill she had no money to pay. Almost to the breaking point, she lifted her one-year-old into his highchair, leaned her head against the tray, and began to cry. Without a word, her son took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it in hers. It goes with the pressures of modern life. 

Some of us are stressed out and we are tired. Today’s gospel prescribes a way out for stress. 

15.  “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”  

Soren Kierkegaard (pronounced Kerkegor) was a Danish philosopher who suffered bouts of extreme melancholy, undoubtedly due to a difficult upbringing. One day he wrote in his Journal, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” What a liberating thought: “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Not what others expect me to be. Not some unrealistic image I have of myself. No, with God’s help I shall become who I really am. No more stressful pretenses. No more misguided strivings. I will relax and be me. When we feel accepted by Christ, then for the first time in our life we become free. When we are yoked to Jesus we no longer have to prove to the world that we belong. 

16.  "A Work-Weary World?"  

Michael Boyer wrote an article for National Geographic entitled, "A Work-Weary World?" that may give us a little comfort. He notes that Americans are famous for their work ethic. However, according to a study  by  the  International  Labor  Organization  we  are  no  longer  the  world leaders in hours worked per year. South Korea's booming economy necessitates a six-day work week. In the past few years, South Koreans have averaged 2,390 hours of work per year, as compared to the 1,792 hours of work per year in the U.S. Workers in Japan, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand also worked more hours than U.S. workers. Swedish workers clocked the fewest work hours in an average year, only about 1,337. (2) Now before you pack your bags for Sweden, remember those cold, dark winters. Also, you don't speak the language. Some of you, I know, are weary from work. 

17.  “I have lots more remedies!”   

Have you heard about the farmer who went to a government bureaucrat specializing in animal health? The farmer sought help from  the  “expert”  because  ten  of  his  chickens  had  suddenly  died.  The government expert instructed the farmer to give aspirin to all the surviving chickens. Two days later, however, the farmer returned. Twenty more chickens had died. What should he do now? The expert said quickly: “Give all the rest castor oil.” Two days later, the farmer returned a third time and reported 30 more dead chickens. The government expert now strongly recommended penicillin. Two days later a sad farmer showed up. All the rest of his chickens had now died. They were all gone. “What a shame,” said the expert, “I have lots more remedies!”  The world offers many so-called remedies to the problem of stress: - Get away - Run away - Fly away - Take a pill to ease your nerves - Take a drink to drown your sorrows - Take a shot to kill the pain - Get drunk, take drugs, sleep a lot.  But the truth is most of them don’t work. Jesus prescribes just one remedy for stress: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

18.  The Jewish parable on the burden of Mosaic Law.  

"There was a poor widow who had two daughters and who owned a field. When she began to plough, Moses said to her through his Law, `You must not plough with an ox and an ass together.' When she began to sow, the Law said, `You must not sow your field with mingled seed.' When she began to reap and to make stacks of corn, it said,

`When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it' (Deut.24:19), and `you shall not reap your field to its very border' (Lev.19:9). When she began to thresh, the law said, `Give me the heave-offering, and the first and second tithe.' She accepted the ordinance and gave them all to God. 

“What did the poor woman then do? She sold her field, and bought two sheep, to clothe herself from their fleece, and to have profit from their young. When they bore their young, Aaron the priest (who represented the Law) said, `Give me the first-born.'  So  she  accepted  the  decision,  and  gave  them  to  him.  When  the shearing time came, Aaron said again, `Give me the first of the fleece of the sheep' (Deut.18:4). Then she thought: `I cannot stand up against this man. I will slaughter the sheep and eat them.' Then Aaron said, `Give me the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach' (Deut.18:3). The woman said, `Even when I have killed them I am not safe. Behold they shall be devoted.'   Aaron said, `In that case they belong entirely to me' (Num.18:14). He took them and went away and left her weeping with her two daughters." The story is a parable of the continuous demands that the Law made upon men in every   activity of life. These demands were indeed a burden.    Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon our shoulders. (Taken from William Barclay).