14th Sunday (A)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest”

In the first reading as well as in the Gospel we see that the prophet and Jesus Christ praise the Father for his marvelous deeds. Jesus specially praises the Father that he chose to reveal the great mysteries to the babes instead of the intelligent and prudent.  Usually in the world there is no place for the weak and the unlearnt.  They are usually not counted as such. But for Jesus the weak and the unlearnt are the ones who are blessed ones because the Father chose to reveal them his glory.  When the disciples had returned from their mission work in the villages where he himself was about to go, Jesus had praised the Father similarly for revealing his glory to the poor illiterate disciples-Lk. 10-21-24.

We see this happening all through the Gospels. Jesus praises the poor widow for putting in two copper coins while the rich were putting in big amount as donations-Lk. 21:3. He praises the sinner tax collector for praying with real repentance in the temple-Lk. 18-14. He lauds the Canaanite woman for her answer that the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master-Lk.15: 28. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, it is Lazarus who is appreciated though being poor and neglected by rich man and the society- Lk. 16:22.  He eats with the sinners and tax collectors Mt.9: 10-12. In his parable of the lost sheep there is great joy on finding the lost one over the 99 which were never lost- Lk.15:7. In the parable of the lost son, there is joy on getting the lost one back-Lk. 15: 24. When the disciples compete to be the greatest among them, Jesus puts a child in their midst and tells them that the one like this child will be greatest in the Kingdom of God-Mt.18.2. For Jesus the lowly, humble, and simple of heart are the people who are great.  They are the ones in whom Father is well pleased.  They are being liked and appreciated for their simplicity and purity of heart.

The second part of the gospel is an invitation to accept Jesus’ easy yoke: Jesus addresses people, who are desperately trying to find God, who are exhausted by the search for truth, who are desperately trying to be good, and who find the task impossible. God gave His People basic guidelines for a holy life, but the Pharisees ended up making God’s Law inaccessible and impossible to follow. For the orthodox Jew, religion was a matter of burdens:  613 Mosaic laws and thousands of oral interpretations, which dictated every aspect of life. Jesus invites burdened Israel and us to take his yoke upon our shoulders. The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. To take the yoke of Christ is to enter into relationship with Christ as his loving servants and subjects and to conduct ourselves accordingly. The yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. A yoke is fashioned for a pair — for a team working together. So we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power; we are yoked together with Christ to work with Him using His strength. By saying that his “yoke is easy” (11:30), Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.

“My burden is light” (11:30): This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light. When we remember the love of God and translate it by loving others, then the burden becomes easy. Jesus is returning to the simplicity of God’s original Covenant and Law, giving people what they need to guide them on their path easily.  By following Jesus, a man will find peace, rest, and refreshment. Although we are not overburdened by the Jewish laws, we are burdened by many other things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age and a thousand other things. Jesus’ concern for our burdens is as real as his concern for the law-burdened Jews of his day.   “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (11:28). The yoke of Jesus is the love of God. By telling us: “Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest(11:29), Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way. When we center in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens.

Tommy Dorsey was a well-known band leader in the 1930’s and 40’s. The birth of this classical hymn “Precious Lord” had a history of its own and it is worth remembering. In 1932 he was living in a little apartment in Chicago’s south side. One day he had to go to St. Louis where he was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. Since Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with their first child, he was unwilling to go, but a lot of people were expecting him in St. Louis. He wished Nettie goodbye and moved on. However, outside the city, he discovered that in his anxiety at leaving, he had forgotten to his music case. On his return he found Nettie was sleeping peacefully and something telling him to stay back, but eager to get back and unwilling to disturb Nettie, he quietly slipped out of the room. The next night the crowd at St. Louis called on him to sing again and again. Finally he sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Union telegram. He ripped open the envelope and the message was “YOUR WIFE JUST DIED”. He rushed to a phone and called home. All he could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead Nettie is dead.”

When he got back, he learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. There was joy and sadness, but the same night the boy died. He buried Nettie and the little boy in the same casket. Then for days he closeted himself and felt that God had done an injustice to him. He did not want to serve him anymore or write gospel songs and just wanted to go back to the jazz world, which he knew so well. But then, as he hunched alone in the dark apartment those first sad days, he thought back to the afternoon that something kept telling him to stay with Nettie. He realized that if he had paid more attention to it, he would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died. From that moment he vowed to listen more closely to his inner voice. The following Saturday one of his friends took him to Maloney’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It is there he sat down at the piano, and his hands began to browse over the keys. He could feel the touch of God and felt at peace. These were the beautiful words come he composed “ Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” The Lord gave him these words and melody. He also healed his spirit and he learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, then He is closest, and when we are more open to His restoring power. The rest of his life he lived for God willingly and joyfully.