JESUS’ INVITATION TO REST A WHILE”
First Reading: Zechariah 9: 9-10
Second Reading : Roman 8: 9, 11-13
Gospel Reading : Matthew 11: 25-30
* First reading is from the book of Prophet Zechariah. In this passage, the Prophet urges people to rejoice because their promised Messianic Leader is coming. The Messiah will not come as a proud warrior , but he is full of humility. He is victorious but peace loving. He is triumphant but humble. This prophecy finds its fulfillment in Jesus.
* Second reading is from the letter of St. Paul to Romans. In this passage, Paul tells the Christian community in Rome and all of us that we have the Holy Spirit living in us. He further adds that authentic Christian life is lived in union with the Spirit of Christ and results in fullness of life. Whereas a sinful and sensual life is a living death and results in the destruction of life.
“Come to Me All Who Labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you Rest”
Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Matthew. In this passage, Jesus openly invites everyone who is humble, gentle and overburdened. There are very few of us who can say that we are not burdened. Jesus is the embodiment of the Heavenly Father’s goodness and all those who follow Him will find true rest and reassurance.
“Come to me” is a great invitation from the Lord. This invitation of Jesus is open to everyone in different ages and to all classes in the Society. To all people who are overburdened – the working, struggling , oppressed, those who do manual works or mental works – to all Jesus offers true rest. No matter who we are and what we do, we all get weakened, tired and enfeebled. Rest is a universal need: we need physical, mental and spiritual rest. Jesus is ready to give us that rest. -
“Lord you have made our hearts for you and they are restless until they rest in you” – St. Augustine.
“We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about priority for God in one’s life. Today’s consumeristic world has a shift from God- centeredness to self- centeredness. Jesus says, “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”Let us contemplate on our own priorities of life. Is Jesus my first priority? Are my attitude and activities oriented towards Jesus? Whenever one decides to follow Jesus by receiving different sacraments, he /she says “Yes” that Jesus is his/ her priority. But in a long run there is a danger of shift from this priority. One moves from God- centeredness to self- centeredness. He/she creates his/her own priorities. God becomes only his/her sidelined priority. Today Jesus reminds us of our priority. Being a Christian our priority must be JESUS. If at all we have deviated from the priority let us come back to Jesus.
There is something very beautiful and central about the readings this weekend.They speak of the “cost” of discipleship. A very big difference when we follow Christ and “die to sin” – We die with Christ so that we can rise to newness of life, as the readings say.
It reminds us that when we become followers of Christ, it really does change our priorities. We “die” to selfishness and live to “generosity” - And, although we know that there is indeed a cost to following Christ, we do not keep a ledger – we don’t count the cost. Because we follow Jesus’ ways, we can be opposed by others who feel threatened by Christ’s values. We can be rejected by others who are challenged by the Gospel. We must be prepared for the fact that we may lose earthly “things” because of our discipleship and be put at a material disadvantage in terms of material priorities. Still, we are greatly encouraged to know that we are living something greater – life with and in Christ!
Gracious God help us to see with the eyes of Jesus so that we can always find God in others.
Today’s exceptionally long Gospel is trying to open our eyes. Where are our blind spots? Do we have certain situations, like the Pharisees, where we refuse to believe despite what we are seeing?
Even though it was almost comical to see the lengths the Pharisees went to ‘to not see” the obvious, I think the writer was trying to illustrate the various ways we human beings can refuse to see. How many times have we not seen what is staring us in the face? The Pharisees stumbled through various gyrations trying to disprove that Jesus restored the slight of a blind man.
How many times have I spun actions so they fit in with what I want to believe about friends or politicians? How many times have I refused to let facts challenge my strongly held beliefs and/or opinions? I can be so sure I am right that I dismiss the possibility of looking at something from a different perspective. I can rationalize just about anything so I don’t have to “see” another way of looking at an issue or an interaction. Rationalizing is so much easier than to trying to “see” and “live as children of the light” as Saint Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Ephesians.
We humans are funny…the convolutions we put ourselves through so that facts don’t interfere with our strongly held beliefs. We see what we want to see and often what we expect to see regardless of what just happened.
During Lent we can take the time to examine our experiences that prevent us from seeing. God is calling us to see with the Creator’s eyes, not our human eyes in the first reading. We are being gently reminded to see people for who are, not what they look like. What prevents from seeing all people as children of God?
Jesus didn’t come to be “right” or to prove the Pharisees wrong, but to help us learn to be “right” with God. And sometimes that requires a new way of seeing.
A tired and thirsty Jesus sits by Jacob’s well in Sychar in Samaria – quite unusual as Jews were told not to enter Samaritan towns. Meanwhile, a Samaritan woman also comes to draw water from the same well. It surprised the woman that Jesus would engage in conversation with her about so-called living water that is able to quench one’s deepest thirst: “those who drink of the water that I shall give will never be thirsty.”
The Samaritan woman knows what Jesus was talking about. Despite differences in their beliefs, she recognizes Jesus’ statements. She also wanted the same living water: “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty or never have to come back here.”
Today we are invited to reflect on our hearts’ deepest desire, the one desire about to quench our deepest thirst and our deepest hunger. In our search for our deepest desire, we stumble upon fleeting ones. We can only pursue our hearts’ deepest desire when we are free from any kind of inordinate attachment. We all have attachments, some healthy, though some may appear healthy but may not be helpful at all. And as such they become inordinate attachments and, for some, even addictions. Ultimately our hearts’ deepest desire orients us to do God’s will. His will is really not something external to us. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that we can know God’s will through our hearts’ deepest desires. God’s
will is deeply embedded in our hearts at the onset of life. By prayer we can discern the will of God and obtain strength to do it.
Redeemed by Christ by his own blood and sacrifice, this living water comes down to us in and through the Church, through the sacraments and through our relationships with one another. In and through the Church, we can faithfully discern God’s will, the one desire that will qunch our inner thirst.
Gn 12:1 – 4a / 2 Tm 1:8b- 10 / Mt 17: 1 – 9
What do you get if you have faith in God and follow his will? We very naturally ask, “What is in it for me?” before investing ourselves in anything.
Abraham, initially called Abram, is the “Father of faith.” The test of true faith is exemplified by Abraham in his obedience to God’s will, obedience which may be difficult but which ultimately brings us to the fullness of life and happiness.
In today’s first reading from Genesis, we hear God’s promise and blessing for Abraham: God promises providence, purpose and protection to Abraham: providence – “I will bless you”; purpose – “I will bless others through you”; and protection- “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”
God’s promises are clear: God is always faithful to his promises rewarding faith and obedience “far more than we can ask for or imagine.” (Eph 3: 20)
In the Gospel reading about the transfiguration of Jesus on the holy mountain, the voice from the cloud, his heavenly Father, tells the disciples, “This is my Son, my Beloved, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”
What is God’s will for us? Are we willing to “listen to him,” to do his will for us? Do we believe in God’s word and promises? Lent is the season of transformation.