A Cycle – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt. 11: 25-30
Recently my wife and I were watching a DVD series based on the life of Jesus. It begins with the prophet’s predictions of the coming Messiah and throughout the series it flips back to the events before Christ and then back to his first appearance after his baptism by John. It was interesting because it uses modern language and the scenes depict his relationship with the Father and the Spirit as well as his humanity. What is most interesting is the reaction of the individuals he encounters as he interacts with them. In the encounter with Peter and Andrew on the shore brings a smile to your face as you see the fishermen reacting to the full net of fish.
It also depicts the struggle of Peter with his sinfulness and his struggle with leaving his wife to follow Jesus. It takes liberties with the scriptures to develop the story, but it is faithful to the message of salvation, human weakness, forgiveness, and the plan of God to restore the broken relationship between him and us. I thought of this series as I read the gospel for today in preparation for this homily because of one line in the gospel. Jesus says to us today, “no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” In that series that statement of revealing the Father to those open to letting go of what they know is obvious.
What we know by God the Father is in many ways no different than what those early encounters with those of Jesus’s day. It is obvious we know more because we have 2000 years of history and belief in Jesus, whereas they did not have any understanding of who he was. Yet with all our understanding of Jesus as the Son of God or the Messiah, or why he lived, died, and rose we in many ways struggle with the same things they did. We struggle with our unworthiness to enter the kingdom of God. We struggle with wounds inflicted on the human soul and spirit by people we trusted. We struggle with things we have no control over like the upheaval within society today and the pandemic.
Those struggles are huge obstacles for us to know the Father or to allow Jesus to show us the Father. How do we remove these obstacles is the real issue and the words of Jesus spoken to us today are directed at exactly that issue? Many times, we just do not realize how our past has impacted our ability to allow Jesus to show us the Father. Sometimes we do know, and we attempt to overcome them by seeking counseling. This is a good thing because it acknowledges our current struggle is embedded in our past and in wounds we have never revealed.
Is counseling enough to allow us to know Jesus and the Father? If your counselor understands that freedom from your wounded self only is accomplished by the healing hand of Christ, then the answer to that question is yes. So many of the stories in the bible show us how our past can be healed by Christ’s presence. The story of the woman caught in adultery is traditionally believed to be Mary of Magdala is one of those stories. The Samaritan woman is another, Peter is another, the lepers, the possessed. The Canaanite woman who cries out for her possessed daughter to be healed and Jesus dismisses her until she reminds him even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from its masters table.
Story after story reminding us that Jesus came to show us the Father and each time, he reveals the Father we see mercy, forgiveness, compassion, love, gentleness, kindness and our stench of sin or unworthiness is ignored. Jesus says to us today he is longing to show us the Father. We will not discover the Father he desires to show us by any other means than allowing Jesus to reveal the Father to us.
The means we need to put ourselves before Jesus without expecting anything but with a willingness to allow him to speak to our hearts. His invitation is clear and what we can expect from accepting the invitation is also clear. How can you resist him as he says, “come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest? Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Our challenge is to overcome our resistance to recognize the yoke we place on ourselves by our concept of our own worthiness. We want what is being offered us but we are not certain we have lived a life worthy of receiving it. We are wounded by others and we harbor guilt, anger, shame, unforgiveness and they eat away at our image of self-worth. The Prodigal son stayed away for years because of his image of himself. The law was specific and by the law he could not be forgiven. Yet we see in that story how God’s forgiveness works without demanding anything in return, but we go to him. Come to me all you who labor. Labor at what? Certainly not just work but perhaps it is laboring at attaining knowledge of God without ever encountering God in the process.
No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal him. If you pay attention to the stories in the scriptures, you will find those Jesus wishes to reveal the father to includes you and me. What are we seeking from our faith in Jesus? Take the time to reflect on that question for if we are not willing to seek, we will never find. If we are not willing to have everything we profess and believe challenged by Jesus, we will be like so many who said his teachings were hard to take and left him. Did you ever think of where they went after leaving Jesus? They went back to the comfort of what they have done for centuries before Jesus came to earth.
Jesus offers you the freedom of knowing you are worthy and loved by following him. At the beginning of his relationship with man, God said, “I set before you life and death, blessings and curse, therefor choose life that you may live” (Deu. 30:19). Choosing what God offers us is easy, allowing him to do it for us is what is hard. Do we say depart from me for I am a sinner or do we say heal my inner self damaged by sin.