14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Lisa Friedlander
It was a day in May the first time I pulled out today’s readings in anticipation of writing this reflection. I was frantically trying to get ahead and cross some things off my “to-do” list before June hit and my kids were out of school for summer break. “Frantically” should have been my first clue that I was not doing something right. I was letting my schedule run the show and not God. I did not pull the scriptures back out again until late June when summer break was in full swing. The first thing that struck me was a line from today’s Gospel. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” As a mother of two school age children, my calendar revolves around the school year; fall always feels like the chance for new beginnings and when summer break begins, I try to make an effort to relax and move at a slower pace. But this line from the Gospel reminds me that it’s not the season of year that should determine when we rest and slow down, it’s God. The first time I read this Gospel I was unintentionally doing the exact opposite of what God wanted me to do and I did not even realize it.
Weariness. We all experience it, sometimes we can point to a significant reason for it, and sometimes we cannot. It can result from the cumulative effects of bodily fragilities or emotional heartbreaks, the consequences of sin or a combination of all of the above. It surpasses understanding at times. Jesus’ promise is not a simplistic platitude (“it will all be fine!”) but it is a simple promise; Come to me and I will give you rest.
Author Jon Bloom writes that the simplicity of Jesus’ promise is both striking and refreshing.
Jesus doesn’t offer us a four-fold path to peace-giving enlightenment, like the Buddha did. He doesn’t give us five pillars of peace through submission as Islam does. Nor does he give us “10 Ways to Relieve Your Weariness,” which we pragmatic, self-help-oriented 21st century Americans are so drawn to. Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.
And his simple promise is audacious: “Come to me.” The only way that this isn’t megalomaniacal lunacy is if Jesus is who he claims to be: the eternal Word made flesh, our Creator. His simple promise implies a power behind it more than sufficient to lift what weighs us down.
It is a simple promise, but is it simple for us to do? Will we believe in him and trust his promise? If you are like me, you want the knowledge of how and when your burdens will be addressed but Jesus is not providing the details, he is simply promising that they will be addressed. Jesus wants us resting on the surety that he will keep his promise to us in the best way at the best time; that is for Him to decide, not us and that is the hard part. That is where church comes in.
As we know, Jesus does not intend for us to do this in isolation. He intends for us to come to him in community. Matthew 18:20 tells us “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” We all become weary in different ways and at different times. When we are weary and discouraged, we need others to help us believe. As I tell my children often and the teens who come to God Squad, work on your faith now, come to church, engage in your community, because one day, when something or someone breaks you, you will need God, you will need your church and you will need your community. Be there now for those who are weary and they will be there for you when you are weary.
Trust in God’s promise.