July 5, 2020frjohnma


Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

This Sunday’s Gospel, presents one of the most powerful and insightful Gospel passages. It has 3 parts: a prayer – “I bless/thank you, Father”; a declaration of Jesus about Himself – “Everything has been given to me by my Father” and an invitation – “Come to me all who labour.”

Friends in Christ, the theme of our readings today is the invitation to come to Jesus Christ with all our burdens of life. Jesus says in the Gospel reading: “Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). This expression of Jesus Christ is very timely as globally we are being confronted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore it should be taken seriously and not as a pious talk.

The first reading presents Zechariah’s prophecy about the restoration of Israel. Israel was overburdened during the reign of Alexander the Great. So, the Lord raised Zechariah the prophet to assist the people of Israel to reconstitute their nation after their return from the Babylonian exile.

And St. Paul tells us how to embrace the invitation to trust in God. He says we should activate the Spirit of God in us as against the flesh or ego that will mislead us.

The responsorial psalm is a song of praise and thanksgiving. It exhorts us to put our trust in God and not in the foolishness of this passing world.

Friends in Christ, apart from the collective trauma of COVID-19, we are trapped in all sorts of burdens of life. They are heavy in our heads and on our shoulders, in our hearts and on our minds. We have the burden of parenting, difficult and unproductive children; the burden of marriage (You hear couples saying they are in marriage because of one reason or the other. Marriage is not to be managed or endured. It has its own burdens, therefore, we do not need to add more. If there are, please surrender them to Jesus Christ the author and perfecter of Marriage); the burden to love and be generous; the burden of incurable ailments; the burden of addictions to sin and other addictive behaviours. Some have the burden of being widowed; the burden of labouring hard without any type of appreciation; the burden of work; administrative burdens without self-care and the burden of debts. Again, there are disturbing statistics of stress through painful symptoms like anxieties, depression and loneliness. Oh we have the burden of the soul being tormented by spiritual predicaments, decay and restlessness. The list is endless. Please complete it! These issues provoke the search for immediate solutions.

There is this popular story that a retreat director shared with us some time ago: He said, A Nigerian Catholic driver had a lot of burdens bothering him and picked up a patient from hospital. He didn’t know the religion of the patient but on the way home the patient wanted to visit a native doctor. The Catholic consented and led by curiosity he went into the native doctor’s house to watch the proceedings with the patient. The native doctor asked the patient to shake a bunch of stones in his closed hand and throw them on a mat on the floor. The native doctor would then give judgment based on the arrangement of the stones on the mat. Instead of spreading out as you would expect all the stones landed together in a heap on the centre of the mat so that the native doctor was unable to read them. The patient was asked to shake and throw the stones again. The same thing happened. Again a third time the native doctor asked the patient to shake and throw the stones. It happened again. This time the native doctor said, “There is a higher power than me working here. Empty out everything you both have in your pockets.” The Catholic driver took a Rosary beads from his pocket. The native doctor said, “That is it! That is what is blocking my power. Get you both out of here and don’t ever again come back.”

What is the way out of burdens?

First, let’s approach Jesus with our burdens – Acts 4:12 (Gratitude and prayer): When we are threatened by life crises, who do we turn to? If you are an infant before God, the answer would be to turn to Jesus who is our brother and friend – No wonder we usually sing: What a Friend we have in Jesus,

  All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

  Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

  O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

  Everything to God in prayer!

Decide for God: So, from our second reading we heard, “there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves (flesh) or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end of the misdeeds of the body you will live” (Rom. 8:12-13).

Counselling and spiritual direction as medication for burdens: When burdens are too much do not kill yourself. Share and put them done by letting go … Especially the men folk, we need to put down our manliness and share our burdens and become lighter psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. The expression by Jesus Christ, “Come to me all who labour and are overburdened” is a counselling and spiritual direction invitation. Going for counselling and spiritual direction is not just good for you as a person but it is a sign of caring for the gift of the self by God. A problem shared is half-solved as the saying goes!

We have this expression as people led by the Spirit, “offer it up.” To offer up our burdens is to ask God to unite it with those of Christ. St. Paul knew very well the issue of finding meaning in burdens, so, he says: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).  We can do same!

We need to free ourselves from unnecessary burdens: The greatest burden we have in life is our constant engagement with the trivial and the unimportant things in life. For instance, the burdens of the past and the future; the burden of worries (Matt 6:34); the burden of failure (John 18:25-40); the burden of unnecessary friends, clubs and unions; the burden of anger and pride; the burden of unfriendliness; the burden of unhealthy sexual relationships; the burden of injustice; the burden of guilt (1Sam. 24:1-22); the burden of the fear of death, the fear of COVID-19, the fear of Satan and evil. The truth is that Jesus did not come to take away our burdens from us but He came to assist us by lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us and suck life out of us. He came to lighten our burden by helping us to shoulder the burden that will help us to live life to the fullest – the burden of love of God and neighbour. God bless you!

Texts for further reflection and prayer: Matt. 6:25-34; John 3:1-16; Ps. 139:1-18

Comments (8)

  • Gerard-Mary

    July 5, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Amen! Very wonderful lesson there – the habit of having a Rosary always in our pockets/handbags wherever we go and the power of sacramentals. Very rich content. Warm regards Father. All to Jesus!

  • Juliana-Mary Ukeje

    July 5, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Wonderful & very loaded reflection on today’s liturgy of the Word! Thank you very much Father and all glory to God for you; may He grant you more of His divine inspirations & strength. Like you rightly stated Father, we sure need His grace now more than ever!
    May God help us activate His Spirit in us & effectively resist the misleading inclinations of our flesh, which weakens our virtues & rob us of His divine peace, leaving us heavily burdened. May He also lead us to the right source of help, especially spiritual direction; His “sign of caring for the gift of the self“.
    Thank you also Father for sharing the very interesting story of your Retreat Director; if only we know the power we have as true children of God, especially when we recognize the loving maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary & the communion of our heavenly brethren. I once heard a story of a Catholic who went to consult one of these “men of God” and was very surprised to find the status of St. Anthony of Padua there!

  • Felix

    July 5, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Indeed, there are so many unnecessary burdens that we often take upon ourselves. We often forget that, Jesus has already commanded us not to worry about the things we are to eat, drink and wear. The only true necessary worry we ought to have as children destined for the kingdom, is how to please God and make heaven at the end of our lives here.
    If we reconsider our lives and channel all out efforts towards just pleasing God, we would learn to easily surrender every other cares and worries to Jesus and let Him help us handle them and turn them into instruments of purifications and mortification for the salvation of our souls.
    May God help us to respond to this consoling and promising invitation and gain rest for our humble souls. Amen.

  • AndyMarie

    July 5, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks alot Padre, may we continue to seek the face of God in our pains and sufferings. As we surrender all to him, it shall be well with us through Christ our Lord. Amen

  • Stanley-Mary Osegbo

    July 5, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks Fr. for leading us into understanding how to place all our burden on Jesus who is always waiting for that and expects us to abandoned ourselves and everything about us irrevocably to Him.

  • Adaeze Okafor

    July 5, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    Thank you Fr for that reflection. Honestly, we are unnecessarily bothered about so many things. But only one thing is important and that is seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and every other thing will be added to us. For Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Thank you for sharing that story on the power of the rosary. With our rosary we can overcome every burden and challenges of life.

  • Andrew Yahaya

    July 7, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    What a Friend we have in Jesus, this song is renewed in my mind once again. Actually,He is a wonderful friend with a big canopy to cover us all. His grace is sufficient enough for us. Amen.

  • John Egbeji

    July 8, 2020 at 9:11 am

    What wonderful lesson !. Thanks Fr

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