Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Readings: Zech 9:9-10; Ps 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30

Know Christ and you will know rest.
No Christ and there will be no rest!
… In this life or the one to come!

  • A man had a little daughter–an only and much beloved child. He lived only for her, she was his life. So when she became ill and her illness resisted the efforts of the best obtainable physicians, he became like a man possessed, moving heaven and earth to bring about her restoration to health.

    His best efforts proved fruitless, however, and the child died. The father was totally irreconcilable. He became a bitter recluse, shutting himself away from his many friends, refusing every activity that might restore his poise and bring him back to his normal self.

    Then one night he had a dream. He was in heaven and witnessing a grand pageant of all the little child angels. They were marching in an apparently endless line past the Great White Throne. Every white-robed, angelic tot carried a candle. He noticed, however, that one child’s candle was not lit. Then he saw that the child with the dark candle was his own little girl. Rushing towards her, while the pageant faltered, he seized her in his arms, caressed her tenderly, and asked, “How is that your candle is the only one not lit?” “Father, they often relight it, but your tears always put it out again,” she said.

    Just then he awoke from from his dream. The lesson was crystal clear, and it’s effects were immediate. From that hour on he was no longer a recluse, but mingled freely and cheerfully with his former friends and associates. No longer would his little darling’s candle be extingushed by his useless tears.- Written by Odain –

  • There was a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and had been given 3 months to live. Her doctor told her to start making preparations to die (something we all should be doing all the time). So, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what she wanted to be wearing. The woman also told her pastor that she wanted to be buried with her favorite bible.

    Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

    “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

    “This is very important”, the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman not knowing quite what to say. “That shocks you doesn’t it?” the woman asked.

    “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request” said the pastor.

    The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and functions where food was involved (and let’s be honest, food is an important part of any church event, spiritual or otherwise), my favorite part was when whoever was cleaning away the dishes of the main course would lean over and say, ‘You can keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew something better was coming, when they told me to keep my fork. I knew that something great was about to be given to me. It wasn’t Jell-O or pudding. It was cake or pie something with substance. So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘ What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: Something better is coming so keep your fork too.”

    The pastor’s eyes were welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that that woman had a better grasp on heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

    At the funeral people walked by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question, what’s with the fork? And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and told them about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they would probably not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

    So, the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you, oh so gently, that there is something better coming!

    Good for the Soul, Used with permission from the author, Kim Kane

  • Sometimes in our lives there are moments that are pure magic. For me, this was one of them.

    Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, “God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food and I would even thank you more if mom gets us ice-cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!”

    Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream! Why I never!”

    Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?”

    As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.”

    “Really?” my son asked.

    “Cross my heart.” Then in theatrical whisper he added, indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing, “Too bad she never asks God for ice-cream. A little ice-cream is good for the soul sometimes.”

    Naturally I bought my kids ice-cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice-cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already.”

    Of all my children he is by far my most . . . trying. The quickest to anger, the first one to break something, and the last one to do as he’s told.

    None of it matters though, ’cause like he said, his soul is good already!

The First Reading, Zech 9:9-10, interpreted in a messianic sense (as when cited in connection with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem [Matt 21:5]), proclaims the kind of Messiah that Jesus in fact turns out to be—not a conquering ruler armed with the weapons of the world but the compassionate, burden-bearing figure emerging from the Gospel.

Interpretation of the Second Reading (Rom 8:9, 11-13) is beset by the difficulty of rendering Paul’s sense of living “according to the flesh”, here translated as “the unspiritual”, which rather begs the question. “Flesh” for Paul denotes human existence in the era before Christ, ruled by selfishness and sin. “Spirit” denotes the life of the new creation, pulsating with Christ’s unselfish love. It is this Spirit that has—or ought to have—“made his home” within believers, setting their bodies on track to share Christ’s resurrection.

Gospel: Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) The simplicity of Jesus’s promise is both striking and refreshing. Jesus doesn’t offer us a four-fold path to peace-giving enlightenment, like the Buddha did. He doesn’t give us five pillars of peace through submission as Islam does. Nor does he give us “10 Ways to Relieve Your Weariness,” which self-help-oriented 21st century folks are so drawn to. Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.

And his simple promise is audacious: “Come to me.” The only way that this isn’t megalomaniacal lunacy is if Jesus is who he claims to be: the eternal Word made flesh, our Creator (John 1:1–3, 14; John 8:58; Hebrews 1:1–3). His simple promise implies a power behind it more than sufficient to lift what weighs us down.

What does coming to Jesus mean? When we read the context of this promise (Matthew 11–12), his meaning becomes clear. In his rebuke of the cities (Matthew 11:20–24) and religious leaders (Matthew 12:1–8) that saw firsthand his miraculous works, so clearly demonstrating who he was (John 5:36), and still refused to believe in him, we know that when Jesus said, “come to me,” he meant, “believe in who I claim to be and therefore what I am able to do for you.”

And here is where our burdened souls are tested. Will we believe in him; will we trust him? We want to rest our souls on the knowledge of how and when our burdensome problems will be addressed. But Jesus does not provide those details. He simply promises us that they will be addressed.

Jesus does not want our souls resting on the how and when, as if we are wise enough to understand and determine them. Rather he wants our souls resting on the surety that he will keep his promise to us in the best way at the best time. “Come to me,” he says, “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (see 1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (see Proverbs 3:5), he says, “and you will find rest for your souls.”

Finding rest for our souls
This is a very well-known verse. It doesn’t take too long in the life of a Christian to hear about Matthew 11:28. Preachers like to preach on this passage. Bible teachers like to quote this verse. And we like to hear it because it gives so much comfort to our souls as we live in a world that doesn’t give us much rest. The emphasis of the lesson today will be on the question of how we come to that rest in the Lord Jesus. There is a wonderful promise here. But how exactly do you get it? This is what we want to examine.

Now, we have to put Matthew 11:28 in its proper context. We need to consider what comes before and what comes after this verse if we are to understand Jesus correctly. Let us begin with v. 25, Matthew 11:25-30. This is what we read.

Matthew 11:25. At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.

26 “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The Glory of Christ
This passage begins with a wonderful revelation of the glory of Christ. Here the Lord Jesus says that everything has been handed over to Him by His Father. That is an incredible statement. All things, i.e. the whole universe, have been delivered to Jesus. Everything in this universe is under His authority. God has appointed Jesus, the Son, as King over the entire universe, everything and everyone who lives in it. What Jesus is saying is that there is an equality between the Father and the Son, between God and Him. Only the Father knows the Son; and only the Son knows the Father. In this unique relationship, Jesus claims that He is absolutely equal with God, the Father.

Think about what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is equal to God and God had of His own choice and purpose given everything in the universe into Jesus’ hands.

A divine revelation
There is only one way this can become a burning reality in your heart: God revealed it to you. That is why in v. 25 it says, I thank You, Father, … because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. This means that the only way you can come to a true conviction of this is directly from God speaking to you. Logic and reasoning will not convince you of this because to every human statement, there is always an objection that can be raised. This doesn’t mean that you cannot use reason. It simply means that reason alone is never enough. You will never come to a burning conviction of this reality nor will you ever be able to see this clearly until God reveals it to you.

The Lord Jesus insists on this point as He goes on in v. 27 and says, no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to revealHim. The only way to know God is through revelation and that revelation is always direct faith. It never goes to somebody else. Becoming a Christian is a matter of having a direct relation to God, or to use a popular Evangelical expression, a personal relationship with God.

The context of the promise

And then, having said that, Jesus makes this promise in v. 28. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. So here is our verse. Before we try to understand its meaning, let me make this comment.

You won’t fully understand this verse, v. 28, if you don’t also take into consideration v. 29. The Lord Jesus doesn’t just make a wonderful promise. He puts also an important demand or condition on that promise. You see, He says, Come to Me, … I will give you rest. But He says a lot more than that. Look at v. 29. Verse 29 ends with the same words as v. 28, You will find rest for your souls. So v. 29 is in fact explaining v. 28 and if you look at it carefully, you realize that it actually lays down a very important demand on the person who wants to enjoy the promise that Jesus speaks about.

When you study the Bible, make sure that you have all the facts together. We want to know the whole counsel of God. We want to know the whole truth, and not just part of the truth, even if this other part is to make us uncomfortable. Don’t just pick the verses that you happen to like. And here I want to insist on the fact that no one can find rest in Christ for his soul if he doesn’t meet the conditions that Jesus also speaks about.

So what are these conditions? This passage speaks of three conditions and they can be summarized in these three words: to come, to take, and to learn. Come to Me, take My yoke, and learn of Me. All these words lead to the person of Christ. If we want to find the rest unto our soul, if we want to find the sweetness of fellowship with God, that’s what we have to do. To come, to take and to learn.

Now, when we look at these three words, we discover that each of these three words has to do with discipleship. It is to the true disciple of Christ to whom this promise is being made. Christian living is not just about attending church every Sunday or having your devotion every morning, or agreeing with the doctrines of your church. All this is certainly good, but it is much more than that. The Lord Jesus is concerned about you being His disciple, a disciple who practices His teaching. And He is saying that it is only when you truly become a disciple of Jesus that you will experience the fullness of that rest in Christ. To come, to take and to learn.

Are you burdened?

So the first word is the word ‘come’, come to Me. This is Jesus’ call to us. This is Jesus’ call to mankind for its salvation. We have all been called and here we find that it is the call of Jesus to us to follow Him.

Notice the people whom the Lord Jesus is addressing Himself to. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden. It is to those who are burdened, who labor under the burden of sin. We read about this burden, this toil, already in Genesis 3:17ff. There God said to Adam after his sin, Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it … In the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread. God pronounces His judgment on Adam by saying that from now on, he will have to live by the sweat of his brow. This is how the Bible tells us that life for anyone is filled at some point with pain and sorrow because of sin.

But thanks be to God that in His grace, out of the seed of the woman, will be born a Savior who can give rest to a restless world. And today this promise of God, back in Genesis, has been fulfilled. Jesus is saying to those who are dissatisfied with life, who recognize their sins, who are seeking rest, Come to Me … and I will give you rest. So this rest is not merely a psychological rest. It is a spiritual rest. It is a matter of salvation. It is Jesus calling mankind for its salvation.

Now, this word ‘come’ is often used in the context of discipleship. In Mark 1:17, Jesus says to two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, Come to Me, and I will make you fishers of men. In the same way, in Mark 10:21, Jesus invites another person to become His disciple. To this rich young ruler, He said, Come, take up the cross, and follow Me. And as you know, he didn’t want to come to Jesus because he had great possessions.

The yoke of Jesus

The second word, ‘take’, is again used of discipleship. For example in Luke 9:23, we have, If anyone desire to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. If anyone is to become Jesus’ disciple, he will have to take up his cross daily. And to take up the cross is equivalent to taking Jesus’ yoke as we read in Matthew 11:29 when He says, ‘take My yoke upon you.’ Let me explain why we can say that.

A yoke is an agricultural instrument used to plow a field. If you look at a yoke, you will notice that the yoke has the shape of a cross. It is made of two pieces of wood. One is across the shoulders of two animals. The other piece of wood goes trading down the ground. At the end of this second piece, there is a hook that falls into the ground. Do you get the picture? From this description of a yoke, we can see that to take up His yoke is in fact to take up His cross. It is exactly the same thing.

The yoke of sin

The word ‘yoke’ is used some fifty times in the Old Testament. What we observe when we read all these references one by one is that it is rarely used in its literal sense. Most of the time, the word ‘yoke’ is used in a figurative sense to picture the condition of someone who is under the authority of some person or some nation. To be under the yoke of a nation means that you are under the authority of that nation. The prophets of God warned Israel, time and again, that if they reject God’s yoke, they are going to be under the yoke of an oppressing nation. And sadly enough, that’s what happened to Israel because they would not listen to the prophets. They eventually came under the heavy and cruel yoke of the Babylonians and Assyrians.

But the word ‘yoke’ is also used in relation to sin. In the first chapter of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah was speaking on behalf of God about the destruction of Jerusalem. And in v. 14, we read this confession from the city of Jerusalem: The yoke of my transgressions was bound; they were woven together by His hands (by God’s hands), and thrust upon my neck. Jerusalem was saying that her transgressions, her sins, were bound together by God into a yoke that was placed over her neck. So here, the yoke is the yoke of sin.

Now in life, there is no question of your not being under any kind of yoke. Don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you because you feel that you are the boss of your own life. The man who thinks that he lives under his own yoke is simply fooling himself. If you think that you can live in total independence, under no kind of yoke at all, you have not understood the situation. Because the reality is that you are either under God’s yoke, or you are under the yoke of sin. In Romans 6, we read that you are either a slave of righteousness or a slave of sin; you are either under God’s yoke or under the yoke of sin. There is no middle ground between the two. If you say that you live under your own yoke, it simply means, from God’s perspective, that you are under the yoke of sin.

Learning from Jesus

So to come, to take and to learn, three conditions to experience the rest in Christ, each word being closely related to discipleship. ‘If you are really My disciples,’ Jesus says, ‘you will come to Me, you will take My yoke, and you will learn of Me.’ The third condition, then, is about learning from Jesus. The Greek word for ‘disciple’ is found right here, ‘to learn’. A disciple is someone who learns from a master, namely Jesus for the Christian. The disciple’s relation to Jesus is one of teacher and student. And what do we learn? For I am meek and lowly of heart. Realize that He is God, King of the universe, who humbled Himself to come down to this world, to die on the cross for us. Where can you find a better expression of meekness than that?

So then, Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. I hope that you now understand that it is a verse that has to do with salvation. It is Jesus calling mankind for its salvation. When Jesus says that He will reveal Himself to whom He wants to reveal Himself, it doesn’t mean that He is going to do it at random like playing bingo. He will reveal Himself to the babes, as we read in v. 25, to the humble, to the poor in spirit, to those who recognize that their life is under the yoke of their own sins and that they need a Savior. And when you move towards Jesus under His conditions, as a disciple to his Master, to come, to take, and to learn, then you will find rest for your souls for all eternity.

Food for the soul for our Peace, Rest and Integrity

It does not matter how physically fit our bodies are if we do not have tranquility, peace, and harmony within our souls. Lets explore some of the healthy and unhealthy foods for the soul.

Healthy foods – Prayer, gratitude, appreciation, self love and love of others, laughter, joy, mindfulness

Unhealthy foods – self doubt, judgement, fear, anticipation, anger, hatred

Healthy Foods for the Soul:

1. Gratitude is an expression of thankful appreciation for the benefits that one has received or will receive. Wallace Wattles in his 1910 book, The Science of Getting Rich, wrote “The Grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best. Faith is born of gratitude. The grateful mind continually expects good things and expectation becomes faith.” Nourish yourself with gratitude by stating 5 things you are grateful for each day before you rise out of bed.

2. Appreciation is the recognition of the quality, value, and significance of all things, no matter how seemingly small. It is noticing the gentle breeze, the faint smile, the fragrant scent, the sharp pungent taste, the silence and recognizing the full value of each moment of life and all that life has to offer. Nourish yourself with appreciation by being present in the moment, appreciating all your senses and allowing nature and your surroundings to fill your very being.

3. Love is an intense emotional feeling, a core human need that takes many forms. Self love is equally important as love of others. It is human nature to take good care of the things we love. We treasure them as valued possessions. To truly love others, however, we must love ourselves first. Nourish yourself by finding things every day to love about yourself. Then show ways to say I love you to the rest of those you love.

4. Laughter relaxes muscles and releases tension. It causes physiological changes that have been compared to a mild workout. It increases blood flow and improves sleep, making it easier for your physical body to restore itself. Nourish yourself by finding reasons for laughter in even the most insignificant occasion. Don’t be afraid to get silly. It’s good for your soul.

5. Joy means finding something worth celebrating in everything you do. It is goal-oriented and positive. You may have prepared a particularly satisfying and delicious meal for your family, your child may have shared a lovely, poignant drawing, or you may have simply looked out the window and been inspired by a beautiful sunset. Nourish yourself by finding something joyful to celebrate out of your day before you go to bed each night.

On the other hand, there are unhealthy foods that diminish and damage the soul, wearing down the protective mind portal. These foods are powerful, but not as powerful as those that nourish.

Unhealthy Foods that Diminish and Damage the Soul:

1. Self doubt is the inner voice that says, “I can’t; I’m not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. I don’t know how!” Self doubt is insidious in its nature. It destroys hope, imagination, and dreams. These feelings of inadequacy were often instilled into the very fabric of our beings long before we were able to develop strong cohesive thoughts of our own, often from our upbringing. Nourish yourself against self doubt by acting without worrying about the whys. Trust in the absence of evidence and stay present without allowing the past to taint or infect the moment.

2. Judgement – “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung. We may judge others, but we often turn a more harsh judgement on ourselves. Constant judgement and criticism will wear your soul down. Accept that you are human. We all make mistakes. Be compassionate and forgiving towards yourself.

3. Stress. – This is a difficult one, because it is so often outside of your control. You may not always be able to control stress itself, but you can control how you deal with it. Stress tears away bits of your soul. It causes the release of cortisol, which provides short-term immediate energy but compromises the immune system in the long term. When you are under stress, pay particular attention to the need to nourish your soul with good foods. Try to look beyond the moment. You may be beaten down, but you started from a standing position and can get there again. Do not feed stress. Feed a calm spirit of acceptance.

4. Fear and insecurity. – We live in a fearful world. People feel the need to protect themselves and often let that fear eclipse common sense. Your neighbors feel the same way you do. We are in this together. Focus on things that build confidence and security, rather than those that make you fearful. Work together on things that build confidence. Find something that makes you feel strong and make it your touchstone.

5. Anger and Hatred. – Anger builds up and feeds hatred. It can be directed towards self and towards others. Either way, it is toxic. Anger will eat your soul and destroy any nourishment you have provided. It increases anxiety, raises blood pressure, causes headaches, and can impede healthy circulation. It causes the release of damaging stomach acid and can interfere with breathing. Anger can kill you. When angry and hateful feelings start to fill you up, breathe slowly and focus. Access your quiet, peaceful inner soul and push the anger back from the door.

Nurture your soul with healthy foods that inspire you and build you up. Avoid those that create ugly feelings inside. By doing this, you will be able to keep your inner garden oasis beautiful and flourishing. It will remain an exquisite and restful place where you can find rejuvenation and achieve inner peace. When your soul is healthy and strong, your heart will be also hence we need Jesus and so let us put a little more JESUS IN OUR LIFE.

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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