Jul 8, 2017

Relationships are a burden!

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 11:25-30

But listen again to what Jesus says in the Gospel portion of the Scriptures today. “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal him”.  Let’s look at the first part of that sentence. “No one knows the Father except the Son”.  

Husbands and wives - you should know each other better than you know anyone else.  You should know your children better than their teachers. Children should know their brothers and sisters better than their friends or classmates.  Why? Because the family is a place of intimacy, where we waste time with each other, where we help each other to grow, mature –it is where our personalities have the greatest opportunity to be developed and formed.

I can look at photographs of you through social media, at birthday parties, your graduation or wedding photographs. I can read your biography or, follow you on your facebook or twitter. Or if you are famous, a celebrity or a VIP, maybe I can watch a movie or documentary about you. But do I know you? Do I really know you in the way that your family does, your spouse does, your brothers or sisters or your close and intimate friends? Not really, unless I am invited into your whole life, adopted into your family, allowed to live with you every moment of the day. And that would be hard work!

Back to the words of Christ, “No one knows the Father, except the Son”.  Yes, we may know the Father from the outside looking in. But Christ knows the Father from the inside - as his Father, a unique Father-Son relationship, with an intimacy that we cannot even start to imagine.   

Yes, we can look at everything from the outside, study the images, read all the books and follow all the programs, but we will never get to know who Jesus really is unless He himself invites us into His hidden life, His life “behind the scenes” into the deep and secret intimacy of His Heart, His relationship with His Father. Not everyone gets to go there.  How do we?

Our Lord opens His Heart and invites into the relationship He enjoys with His father, first and foremost, to those who labor and are burdened. I’m not talking about those who are hard workers or if you feel the weight of the world pressing down on you.  (Prayer is itself is a labor. Trying to live a Christian life every hour of the day is a burden – it’s hard work.)   “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest”, says the Lord. He does not say, “take it easy and rest, and you’ll float right into my heart!”

So, what do we have to do? It’s a bit like physical exercise. Don’t expect results if you are not committed to making sacrifices. If there is no sacrifice, no labor, no burden in our relationship with Christ and His Holy Church, then God is easily turned into an ornament, the Church treated like a convenience store, the parish community into a mutual admiration society!

It’s the same with Sunday Mass. Sometimes it’s easier to demand that the preacher do all the work so you can just sit back and listen. Sometimes we demand that the Church accommodate my personal tastes in language, music, architecture, styles so that I myself don’t have to make any efforts, any sacrifices - it’s easier to want everything on my own terms so that I don’t have to make much of an effort. If that’s the logistics of family life, parish life, the spiritual life, at home, school or at work - you’re going to get bored very quickly and God help anyone who disturbs a sleeping bear! Christ tells us, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened”. He did not say, “Come to me all you who go with the flow and who do not want to be burdened”.  

Let us pray for the courage to go beyond superficialities in our relationship with the Lord. Let us never feel put out that we are expected to work hard in our relationships, and learn from Christ how to carry and accept the burdens, even when they are not of our own making. For when we learn to swallow our pride, face our fear, are humble, authentic and sincere, the strength of God’s grace will carry us, deeper and deeper into the strong and enduring Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It is for this reason that we should build up a relationship with Mary.  No other person on this earth knew better the real Jesus, the secret burdens of His heart and the sufferings of His Life, than His mother.  Let us ask her who followed her Son to the Cross, to find a place for us also in her heart and also in her joy being our mother also.

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