Repent and Receive Rest

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:9, 11-13

Gospel: According to St. Matthew 11:25-30

A few years back our street went through that stage where all of the kids were making their way through high school into college and beyond, leaving behind a lot of no-longer-used toys and driveways that seldom heard the methodical and – to my ears – musical thud-thud-thud of a basketball. Things were certainly quieter than the days when the voices of about twenty children could be heard laughing, yelling, crying, and doing all of the things that those who are young at heart as well as in body do on a summer evening.

Fortunately, the good old days have returned as several families and a good number of children have moved in, and I once again have to be extra careful as I pull out of the driveway and be especially attentive while I mow the lawn lest I run over a baseball half-embedded in the ground.

Children bring life to a street in more ways than they could imagine as they remind us of our own carefree summer days before the inevitability of death and taxes ever crossed our minds. But they also help us to recall the words of Jesus, both in this weekend’s Gospel as well as throughout the New Testament, that children hold a special place in His heart and in the Father’s Kingdom.

In speaking to the Father, Jesus proclaims His gratitude for allowing the “little ones” to see what has been hidden “from the wise and the learned.” As is the case each week, we pick up the Gospel in mid-story and don’t get the context unless we do the work of looking it up ourselves. Just prior to this particular reading, Matthew relates the reaction of Jesus to those who have looked but not seen, listened but not heard.

He calls out each town by name and warns them that they will “go down to the Netherworld” because of their lack of repentance. He even goes so far as to compare them with the place whose name is synonymous with unrepentant sin, physical destruction, and spiritual death: “But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

What Jesus wanted from the people in these towns wasn’t praise and adulation; He wanted repentance. But the repentant heart is one that is like the Sacred Heart, for Jesus tells us “I am meek and humble of heart.” The unrepentant hearts of those in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were no different than ours and those of all sinners throughout history who felt that they knew better than God and His Christ – hearts that were filled with pride.

Because for Jesus this isn’t about Him, His closing words take on the gentle tone of someone who is dealing with a child at the end of a particularly busy or difficult day: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Remember how you slept after a day when you played your heart out or cried your heart out? The burdens inherent in the life of adulthood have stolen that peace from us, but if we offer up our hearts – meek, humble, and repentant – then the Heart that longs to be united with us promises that “you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

A.M.D.G.