Today, we celebrate “All Souls Day.” We remember our departed loved ones and we pray for them and all the souls in purgatory, especially those who have no one to pray for them. In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.”
As I was pondering on today’s Gospel, it seems to me that one of the main reasons why our Church has chosen this Gospel passage is perhaps to remind us to acknowledge how our departed loved ones and our present lives are “laboured and are overburdened.” And this being so, we understand why Jesus adds, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
There is a story of a young boy of about 9 years of age, carrying his bigger brother who was physically and mentally sick. This young boy was begging for some money from a tourist. In giving him some money and feeling sorry for the young boy, the tourist asked him, “Young boy, do you carry your brother around the whole day, when you go round begging? He must be very heavy?! The young boy replied, “Sir, he is not heavy . . . he is my brother!” St Augustine puts this truth even more beautifully and says, “Where there is love, there is no toil; or, if there is toil, the toil is loved.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, if this young boy is able to carry his older brother around the whole day, and does not find it a burden because he loves his brother, what more for us, who have Jesus as our Lord who wants to lighten our overburdened lives? The fact that we are still alive confirms for us that each day is a “bonus”, each hour is a blessing, and each moment is a grace from God.
However, when we experience pain and trials in our lives, many of us tend to allow our emotions and these challenges to draw our attention away from God’s assuring Love for us. As such, even though Jesus clearly assures us with words like, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light,” it is not surprising for us not to comprehend these words of Jesus, especially when we are carrying the very heavy burdens of illness, financial crises, broken relationships, deep hurts and boiling anger within us.
Perhaps, this poem that describes the storms of our lives may shed some light on how Jesus relates to us during these crises of our lives.
All who sail the sea of faith
finds out before too long,
how quickly blue skies can grow dark
and gentle winds grow strong.
Suddenly fear is like white water
pounding on the soul;
still, we sail on, knowing
that our Lord is in control.
Sometimes He calms the storm
with a whispered peace, “be still;”
He can settle any sea
but, it doesn't mean He will.
Sometimes He holds us close
and lets the wind and waves go wild,
sometimes He calms the storm
and other times, He calms His child.
He has a reason for each trial
that we pass through in life.
And though we're shaken
we cannot be pulled apart from Christ.
No matter how the driving rain beats down
on those who hold to faith,
a heart of trust will always
be a quiet peaceful place.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is true that sometimes God calms the storms around us, but at other times He chooses to calm us in the midst of the storms of life. Either way, Jesus is present with us at all times. However, the context of today’s Gospel is that in being “laboured and overburdened” in their lives, the Jews rejected Jesus and the Good News of Salvation that He proclaimed, instead of accepting them.
As such, Jesus prays and thanks His Father for revealing the Good News to mere children; as they are receptive to the Gospel.
What about us who are alive? Jesus is inviting us not to make the mistakes of the millions and even billions of people in the world who are living a life that are daily overburdened by its secular and materialistic needs and concerns.
Today, and very specially in this Eucharist, Jesus is inviting you are I to accept Him as our Saviour and Lord, more fully and more wholeheartedly, and find the needed refreshment and peace in life, that He is offering through the Wisdom of His Gospel of Salvation.
Let me conclude by quoting St Augustine again. He says that, “Where there is love, there is no toil; or, if there is toil, the toil is loved.” The young boy who carried his older brother the whole day, and begged for their family’s survival, did not find his brother to be a burden because of his love for him and his family.
Jesus in today’s Gospel assures us that if we allow Him to love us then, we will surely experience our relationship with Him to be what He promised us, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Will we choose to reject this gift of Jesus like the Jews, or would we accept Jesus’ gift with childlike trust?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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