19Jul 19 July. Thursday, Week 15

1st Reading: Isaiah (26:7-9, 12, 16-19)

A prayer of quiet confidence, awaiting the dawn of God’s justice

The way of the righteous is level; O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul’s desire. My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us. O Lord, in distress they sought you, they poured out a prayer when your chastening was on them. Like a woman with child, who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near her time, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were with child, we writhed, but we gave birth only to wind. We have won no victories on earth, and no one is born to inhabit the world.

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a radiant dew, and the earth will give birth to those long dead.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 102)

R./: From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth

You, O Lord, will abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.
For her stones are dear to your servants,
and her dust moves them to pity. (R./)

The nations shall revere your name, O Lord,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the Lord has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
Then he will attend to the prayer of the helpless,
and will not despise their prayer. (R./)

Let this be written for the generation to come,
that future creatures will praise the Lord:
The Lord looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (11:28-30)

Come to me, all you who are weary and you will find rest

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 Ever-Present One

Isaiah’s prayer is to a God in whom he still trusts, despite all that has happened in his lifetime to threaten his security and that of his people. Like Ireland in recent years, the Jews experienced betrayal from within and oppression from outside forces. So the prophet prays, “My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.” His spirituality is one of waiting for God, trusting that Providence will not fail. He believes in a God who “makes smooth the path of the righteous” and who can therefore be relied upon, no matter what. And so the prophet declares that the darkness is almost over and his people, Israel, is like a pregnant woman about to be delivered of a child. We learn to appreciate God’s presence with us best in our time of need.

Jesus reveals this same aspect of God in one of those classic texts which ought to be memorized by all of us. It is, so to speak, the core of his theology. By his intimate relationship with us, God makes our yoke easy and our burden light. He is conscious that life can be weary and burdensome, yet does not make any false, easy promises. The yoke will remain, as will the burden, but with his help they become easy and light. The difference is made by the presence of Jesus who is “gentle and humble of heart.” The God who is with us always, promising ultimate peace at the end, is a gentle and loving Lord.

Laying down our burdens

Jesus often criticized the religious leaders of his day for burdening people by imposing unnecessary demands on them, making the Jewish Law more demanding than it needed to be. In this morning’s Gospel, in contrast, Jesus calls out to those who feel burdened by all sorts of demands that have been made on them and her promises them rest. Jesus calls them into a personal relationship with himself, ‘Come to me… learn from me’, he says. Rather than giving them a new set of laws, he offers them a life-giving relationship with himself. At the heart of the Christian faith is not so much a moral code or a set of religious laws but rather, a person, the person of Jesus Christ who is our Emmanuel, God-with-us.

We are called to come to him, as he has come to us, to relate to him in love, as he has given himself for us in love. In coming to him we discover him to be, not an impersonal taskmaster, but rather, someone who is gentle and humble in heart. The living out of our relationship with him will be demanding; walking in his way often requires saying ‘no’ to other, seemingly more attractive, ways. However, his demands are the demands of love; the path he puts before us is life-giving rather than oppressive and overburdening. His loving relationship with us and ours with him empowers us to take that path, to walk in his way.

3 Responses

  1. daniel quackenbush

    Thank you … as a priest sometimes things get busy and quality time w/Scripture hard to find. I appreciate your thoughtful meditations today — my first time on this site, because I normally try to reflect on the readings throughout the day. Preparing homily in foreign language throughout the week tends to catch up w/me by week’s end. Once again, grazie mille.

  2. Brian Fahy

    Come to me

    Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened. These few verses from Matthew’s gospel are among the most endearing and attractive in the whole of the New Testament. We are immediately drawn to anyone who calls out in love to us and offers to help us ease our life’s burdens. That is why doctors and nurses are so important in our lives, and why loving parents and siblings are vital to our wellbeing, and why true friends are a godsend in our lives.

    The burdens of life change and vary as we live through each stage of life’s journey, and the weight of sorrow that we carry can seem so heavy and crushing that nothing would seem capable of relieving the suffering we endure. And yet the Lord calls out to us and makes us this promise that he will lead us to a place of rest for our souls. Since we all know suffering and sorrow in our lives, we will all get the opportunity to test this promise of the Lord.

    Reading these few verses again today I am reminded that Jesus does not simply say, ‘come to me and all will be well.’ No. As in all life we are on a two-way street here, and in coming to the Lord we are invited to do something by way of cooperating with the grace that Jesus holds out to us. We are asked to ‘shoulder my yoke and learn from me’.

    The yoke we are invited to shoulder is to accept God’s will and to practise it each day, and the learning involves a spirit of gentleness and humility. These are not easy things for us to do, for we are so often full of ourselves, and our complaints about life, and any idea of submission strikes us as defeatist and weak. We all want to be strong and important and involved in life and to have our say and to be recognised and not forgotten.

    Sometimes the burden of life we carry is illness, physical or mental. Sometimes, especially in older years, it is the feeling of being pointless. What purpose my life now? Losing loved ones leaves us lost and lonely and trapped in emotional isolation. How can we escape the trap that life’s misfortunes have made for us?

    The Lord who made us the promise of life is the same Lord who went to face his enemies in Gethsemane, and who prayed for release and whose prayer was heard, when an angel was sent to comfort him. He received strength to face the hour of darkness and was able to say, ‘Thy will be done.’

    Therese of Lisieux, whose life was so short and yet so full of this world’s joys and sorrows, is a great example to us of how to live each day well, and to do the simple things for the love of God in everything. She shouldered the yoke for sure, and grew into gentleness and humility of heart.

    Jesus in Gethsemane almost came to grief and exhaustion in his fear and fright, but the angel of comfort, of strength came to him so that when his enemies appeared Jesus was the man who stood tall while they cowered, and he asked them, ‘who are you looking for?’

    Today we are reminded again to shoulder the yoke of God’s will and not our own. Receive and accept life’s circumstances and accept the story of your life and see how you have come through to this day. Thy will be done, O Lord. Let patience be your spirit as you live this day. Learning to understand and so accept God’s will in your own life and learning to be gentle withal will bring us to that place of rest for our souls, which the Lord promises to us.

    I will give you rest, the Lord says. These are not idle words.

    Brian Fahy

  3. Peter Saling

    Jesus’s words in today’s gospel describing himself as gentle and humble of heart should be our focus because love and forgiveness will always lead to right living and triumph over fear and condemnation.

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