11th December. Wednesday in the 2nd Week of Advent
Memorial of Saint Damasus, pope
First Reading: Isaiah 40:25-31
(Encouragement for the weary people, from God, who strengthens the powerless.)
To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30
(Jesus assures those who are burdened, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.)
Jesus said to his disciples, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Great Unknown, an anonymous prophet of the Babylonian exile, was summoned by God to comfort and strengthen the people, whose memories were haunted by the destruction of their holy city, Jerusalem. Their family bonds as well as their familiar ways of life had been shattered. The prophet imagined them saying : “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.”
As we read yesterday, God summoned this prophet to comfort these desolate people and to announce their return to their own land along the “way of the Lord.” In response to God’s inspiration, he composed the melodious, sweet-sounding and richly theological poems in chapters 40-55. As he comforted the people, he stirred their hopes.
Hope can be liberating, uplifting and productive of new life. Hopes that are not riveted on things and actions but center upon persons tend to be very encouraging. Such hopes take the burden from us. Such is the case when we hope in the Lord. In Isaiah we read:
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagle’s wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
Whenever we hope in people, we strengthen them and so make their burden light. If we sense that someone has great hopes in us – not just in what we can do for them but rather in us – we are complimented and buoyed up. We feel that we can “soar as with eagle’s wings!” Such hopes in people have their risks! First of all, they lack the definite plan of action associated with hopes in what people can do. St. Paul wrote that, “Hope is not hope if its object is seen; for how is it possible for one to hope for what one sees? And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance” (Rom 8:24-25).
St. Paul’s words here about “patient endurance” remind us of the patience accepted by anyone who hopes in people. In marriage a man and a woman pledge their love with hopes in one another and particularly in their bond of union, yet they add at once the risk that they willingly accept: “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” Hopes, therefore, risk everything – and high stakes – for a future that remains unclear, even unknown.
When we truly trust other people and are bonded with them in love, it adds excitement to life and removes the danger of monotony. Then we who are weary will be refreshed. To take the burden of such risks upon ourselves and learn from Jesus, actually refreshes us. It is always a transforming experience to undertake a great work with someone who is “gentle and humble of heart.” Truly in such situations, “my yoke is easy and my burden light.”