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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Come to Me All You Who Are Burdened

And I will Give You Rest 

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH*
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 9, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Most people that we know are carrying heavy
burdens these days. Anxieties and fears  about our economy, the cost of food and fuel, home values and mortgages, what’s happening to our children, terrorism, our national debt -- these all  beset us. The list seems overwhelming and endless. People are trying to stretch their pay checks, but they never seem to go quite far enough. There are couples working on their marriages, and they fear they are breaking up. They’re unemployed or they’re under-employed and searching for a better job that will provide a reliable and adequate source of income.

Others -- 
filled with fear that they may have cancer -- are waiting for biopsy reports on abnormal cells that are growing in their bodies. Or they’re trying to provide for and shape the characters of their children, children that are so influenced by all that is immoral and degrading in our culture. Many parents feel they are taken for granted.

All of us are laboring under burdens. In addition to the few things I’ve just mentioned, many folks have piled on to themselves burdens of self­-doubt, self-blame, shame and guilt. Then they say to themselves: “The predicaments I’m in are my fault.” “If I were a better wife, my husband would notice me more and be more sensitive, considerate and loving toward me.” “If I tried harder, I would have a better job or position where I work, and we wouldn’t be so strapped for money.” “If I were more loving, my teenagers wouldn’t be so hostile.” And on and on it goes, with those internal put-me-down tapes constantly playing in our minds.

Laboring under many burdens, we have come here today to Mass and we’ve just heard Jesus say to us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give
you rest.”
(Matt. 11:28) How could anyone not be drawn to Jesus? Why is He  ignored by so many? 

For some, the Christian message has been so distorted that they no longer take it seriously. Some preachers have claimed that faith in Christ removes all desire for sin. Rubbish! 

Others have preached a message that faith in Jesus Christ removes all doubt and fear in one’s life. Nonsense! Still others tell us that with Christ you’ll have such a feeling of acceptance that you’ll never ever feel lonely again. Not true! And, we’ve been told that if you believe in Jesus Christ your children will grow up good, you’ll get promotions where you work, and that your illnesses and sicknesses will be minor. Bunk!

The Christian faith is not magic. Christ’s life was not painless and totally free of burdens. Quite the contrary! But what He does offer you is His invitation to be yoked with Him, to pull your burdens and tasks through life with Him, sharing His yoke, drawing on His strength, and letting Him help you while you help Him accomplish His tasks. Christ doesn’t do things for you; He does things with you.

The Jews among whom Jesus lived were suffering a lot. Life imposed heavy and painful burdens upon them. Their religious leaders imposed even more, presenting them with an impossible set of laws, rules and regulations that could never be met while at the same time presenting them with an angry and vengeful God who could seemingly never be satisfied. Jesus, a Jew, had burdens, many burdens. But His religion was never a burden. It was a support; it carried Him; His relationship with His Father empowered Him, filling Him with God’s Holy Spirit. He knew that His Father was a gentle, caring, and generous Father who loved with a love infinitely greater than any human love.

I don’t know what your image of God is, and I don’t know how you feel about God, but I do know that you need to be yoked with Jesus in accomplishing God’s work and in carrying out His tasks. If you give up your tyrannical deity, Jesus will give you His wise and loving Father along with His strong and understanding mother. He wants to be yoked with you.
In our Gospel this weekend (Mat 11:25-30), not only does Jesus offer us rest in our weariness, he also invites us to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me … For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” According to Miriam
Yoked Together 
Webster’s Dictionary, a yoke is a wooden bar or frame by which two animals are joined at the neck or head for working together. This suggests to me that Jesus will work with us to help us carry our burdens. I find this thought very comforting.

For those of us who are weighed down with shame and guilt, well that is a heavy load to carry. Jesus’ mission in life was a mission of forgiveness. Are you yoked with Christ in that
task? Christ never met anyone whose sins
were so great that they couldn’t be forgiven. The only thing Jesus could not forgive was an unforgiving spirit… or a spirit that simply doesn’t care.

It is often said that Jesus’ love for us was unconditional. Well, yes…. but not quite. He did attach one supreme condition on His love for us, namely that in order to receive His
forgiveness and be relieved of our burden we have to forgive others. We have burdens removed from our backs as we forgive and remove burdens from others.

No one has a heavier load to carry than those who are resentful and constantly concerned about themselves. Resentfulness is, after all, a form of self-centeredness. And Jesus, as you will recall, spent no time at all with such things. Jesus was far too concerned with helping others than He was with fretting about His own problems. He didn’t waste time with His own self-pity parties.

If we take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves we will find our own burdens to be much lighter. For all of us are carrying some heavy loads, the worst of which are our feelings about ourselves and about our relationships with others, particularly those that closest around us. Life is, after all, essentially hard, because relationships are hard.

But Jesus offers you something that can make life essentially beautiful for you and for me. “Come to me,” He cries, “all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Everything depends upon how close you will let Jesus come to you.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. 

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