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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fourteenth Sunday of Year (A)

(Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

My dear People of God, in the Gospel reading you have just heard Jesus was addressing His Father in the first two verses:
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.   Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
In the next verse Jesus was speaking about His Father:
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.
And finally He was speaking directly to us when He said:
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   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.   For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
In those words He promises rest to the weary and burdened, but notice, He speaks not of the rest commonly experienced, He speaks of a “rest for your souls”, a rest transcending all the terror and turmoil of this world.
How are the weary and burdened to find this new, special sort of rest?
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.
Jesus’ teaching, People of God, can be summarized as follows: all who are wearied and overwhelmed by troubles -- deserved or underserved -- should turn to Jesus for true rest.  The rest He promises is neither bodily nor even mental rest; no, He promises rest for the soul: a rest not to be overwhelmed by physical burdens or mental stress, nor compromised or embittered by them.  This most wonderful rest -- even in the midst of trials and tribulations of all sorts -- is only for those who will take Jesus’ yoke upon themselves; that is, it is for those who, by putting their faith and trust in Him and striving to live according to His word, allow themselves to be gradually formed in the likeness of their Lord Who is gentle and humble in heart.
There are many people today who, far from wanting that gift of peace from Jesus, desire, above all, to feel thrills of pleasure and excitement in whatever moments of pride and glory, power and prominence, satisfaction and sensuality may come their way; and, as a result, they never cease to weary and burden themselves further with troubles, trials, and sins, new and old, constantly being stirred up or exacerbated by such earthly striving for personal and sensible satisfactions.  Moreover, as those sought-for moments of excitement, pleasure, and exultation inevitably become less frequent and less satisfying, they find themselves more and more prone to experience a gnawing fear of that inevitable time when -- either through age or suffering, or even through the dreadful curse of boredom -- weariness will cloud over their search for worldly fulfilment and they will find themselves empty, embittered, and alone, being forced to recognize that what they once had considered best and most desirable has finally shown itself to be empty and unfulfilling.
Rest, however, my dear people, is not the greatest gift of Jesus, not the supreme secret He has to teach us.  You will remember that for the greater part of our Gospel reading Jesus was speaking to or about His Father.  To the weary and overburdened He offers rest first of all, indeed; but for those who, having become His disciples and, through faithful perseverance, have also begun to experience something of His rest, He puts before them the prospect of a far greater blessing yet to come.  For it is His desire, not simply to give them a mere foretaste of heavenly rest here on earth, but to bring them to the glory and splendour of their heavenly and eternal fulfilment in His Father’s presence:
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.
People of God, “no one knows the Father except the Son”, that we can understand; but what follows is the supreme manifestation of the infinite love of God, namely, the fact that the Son  chooses  to reveal the Father to His faithful and persevering disciples.  In fact, He makes knowledge of the Father, that is, a personal appreciation of, and responsiveness to, the Father, a sign or token of authentic discipleship: true disciples of Jesus should know the Father in such a way because Jesus has taught us that, in order to pray as His disciples, we must be able to use the word ‘Father’ as he would have us, in the prayer He gave us as the norm and model for all our prayers.
We can glimpse further along this road of true discipleship if we consider the words of the apostle Philip who once said to Jesus:
Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. (John 14:8)
Philip was indeed orientated in the right direction, because he did long to see the Father; but Jesus was most disappointed at the little progress Philip seemed to be making, and His disappointment was such that He suggested that Philip hardly  knew Him at all:
Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? (John 14:9-10)
Jesus obviously considered that His whole life’s mission was to make the Father known and loved; and therefore He found it so disappointing and frustrating that Philip who -- as a chosen apostle -- had both shared His presence and experienced His teaching so intimately and for so long still seemed unable to recognize the Father in Jesus Himself.
People of God, this awareness of and love for the Father is what Jesus longs to see in us above all else; but it is a shared knowledge, shared by Jesus with us: it can never be our own possession, it is ours only in, with, and through Jesus.  Therefore, if we have no longing for the Father, no desire to see Him, no awareness of His beauty, wisdom, goodness and power, then we have not yet come to know Jesus.  Jesus’ gift of rest for the weary and the burdened is as nothing compared to that which His very being cries out to bestow: that is, knowledge of and love for the Father.
Jesus knew full well that it was His Father Who sent His disciples to Him:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44);
and Jesus the Son longed to reciprocate.  He desired above all else to bring those the Father had given into His care to recognize the One whose call had led them unknowingly thus far, and in coming to recognize Him as Father, to love, praise and serve Him as true sons with and in Jesus by His Spirit:
Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
Philip, however, Jesus feared, apparently knowing so little of the Father, could not, as yet, have come to know Jesus Himself truly, despite such close proximity and intimate communion with Him.
People of God, how long have you been receiving the Eucharist?  Have you come to really know Jesus: not with mere book knowledge, not with a knowledge of ritual and prescriptions, but with a living, loving, personal knowledge?  If you want to know the answer, it is not hard to find.  Do you love, long to see, to know more of, the Father?  If not, then no matter what facts or opinions you may know about Jesus, no matter how long you may have been attending Mass and receiving Communion or practicing devotions and doing good works, you still have not come to know Him anywhere near well enough.
Dear people, ask Jesus to help you come to know the Father.  There can be nothing more fulfilling and glorious than such knowledge of the all holy, all wise, totally beautiful and infinitely good God, because such knowledge is, actually, the unshackled presence of the Spirit, the bond of mutual love and appreciation between Father and Son, dwelling within us.  That is the beginning, even here on earth, of heavenly life and beatitude. 
Seek, as St. Paul advised (1 Corinthians 12:31), for the higher blessings:
Earnestly desire the best gifts. And I show you yet a more excellent way.
What is that way?  You will remember how Paul went on to describe it:
Now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
“Charity” is the word for that heavenly love for the Father of which Jesus has been speaking to us in the Gospel today.  Follow Paul’s advice: seek the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father, for that is not just rest in toil, People of God, that is life  Itself, eternal and  glorious.