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14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: WILLING TO GRAB YOUR HAND


One of my favorite images is watching this young Spanish mom pass my office about three times a week. With her are her 4 year-old son and the 3 year-old twin-girls. As one child runs off this way, she pursues her, grabs her by the hand, while the other runs off in another direction. With huge smile on her face, this mom chases after each of them and in most cases, grabs the three of them in her hands. This woman spends several hours in the chapel with these kids tossing and turning. The kids’ concentration levels seem limited, so she holds them like the mother hen sitting on top of her newly hatched chickens. This image helps me to step down David’s message in Psalm 23, that the Lord is my Shepherd. What does it mean to hear this, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me?” (v.4) The strength of God’s love and compassion is fascinating. Each time those kids take off, they believe that mom would chase after them. They are unafraid of danger. They find it fun that mom is chasing after them. Yes, mom always grabs their hands and leads them back to her embrace. This is what God does with us, mostly when we stray.


Jesus speaks in today’s gospel, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” And he concludes, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” What does it mean that Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light? This gospel passage begins with Jesus praising the Father and acknowledging the deep intimacy with the Father. This relationship implies a mutual revelation whereby God the Father knows the Son and God the Son knows the Father. God the Father reaches us through his Son, sent into this world for our sake. Jesus does literally the same as that mom, chases after us.


Think about the numerous encounters of Jesus in the scriptures. He revealed the great mystery of faith to the least educated and the simple fishermen of Galilee -Peter, Andrew, James, John, etc. Reflect on his association with sinners -Matthew, Mary Magdalene, etc. Imagine the risks to heal on the Sabbath -the man who had been crippled for 38 years, the man with shriveled hand. The woman with hemorrhages is an outstanding example of Christ’s unfathomable love -“She came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak” (Mk. 5:27). The chains of actions and reactions in this incident speak so much about God grabbing us in his hands, “Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power from Him had gone out, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” “But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be cured of your disease.”


Those instances provide a glimpse of the meaning of Jesus’ message in today’s gospel, “For although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones.” What has God revealed to the little ones? Why does God chose to reveal it to the little ones? First, this revelation is the knowledge of God’s very self, to which Jesus has a unique access. He is the Son of God, in whom the Father is well pleased. Jesus in turn makes the Father known to us through his love and compassion. He reveals himself to those who come to him. He brings God’s healing and mercy. Those who rely on Christ’s strength experience God’s presence.


We must realize that God is aware of our labor and struggles. Not just that, God knows that shame and guilt characterize these burdens. The irony is that like those twin sisters and their brother, most times, we take off. We run from God’s comforting presence. But Jesus chases after us. Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading that our burdens are heavy when we rely on the flesh. Reliance on the flesh kills God’s spirit as it increases our burdens. Ordinarily, the flesh is a part of the human nature, just as the soul. But to rely absolutely on satisfying the flesh can be detrimental to the good of the human person. Food, for instance, is good. But to eat and eat can be unhealthy. To become addicted to food can create various problems to the body and weaken the strength of the soul. Drinking can be fun, but to become an addict to drinking can kill the person. Sex is a healthy gift to creation and dignifies humanity as made in God’s image and likeness. But to become addicted to sex can kill. Dancing is a beautiful way to enjoy life and the beauty of entertainment. But to become an addict to dancing and partying can be harmful. Unfortunately, being immersed in any of the fleshly lifestyles stifles the operation of Spirit in us. Hence Paul says, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”


Maybe you see yourself carrying some burdens and constantly struggling. Use the harmful effects of pornography as an example here. Anyone who’s entangled in the bad habit of pornography carries a heavy burden. It distances the individual from warm relationship with loved ones. It isolates the person from sharing and enjoying the company of friends and family, with compulsive desire for the company of machines and the lure of technology. It creates a negative sense of fear and of being less loved by God. And the more you hide or run from receiving proper spiritual help, the heavier the burden. You’re afraid of confessing your sins. You feel judged by God, maybe by the priest. The result is anger and frustration. Those are heavy indeed. An angry personality dissipates the strength of the soul. Jesus knows it and says, “Come to me… and you will find rest for yourself.”


The Lord wants to grab you by the hand, the reason why he invites you to himself. Why run? Why hide and feel frustrated? The Lord knows those struggles and pains. The Lord feels your anxiety, but wants you to show up. The more you hide, the greater the burden. The more you run, the heavier the load. It takes a humble heart to appreciate God’s mercy. I still see the smile on the young mom as she chases those kids around, inviting them back to her love as I reflect on Christ’s invitation to us today. And here’s the secret, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:8-10). God’s promise is true, …you will find rest for yourself.

Readings: 1st- Zech. 9:9-10; 2nd- Rom. 8:9, 11-13; Gospel- Matt. 11:25-30


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