In our world today, especially, as we battle COVID-19 and its effects in our lives and society, many if not all of us, labour tirelessly to make both ends meet. Unfortunately, we labour without rest and do not get anything meaningful from our labours. At the beginning of this pandemic, so many “authority figures” appeared as Messiahs in their respective rights, asking people to come to them for palliatives and aids. Today, both those who offered or received those palliatives are also looking for help. Banks and institutions who donated in billions are now looking for fund to sustain themselves. The government is bankrupt and looking for loans. No one seems to announce “come to me all you who are hungry and I will give you food” again. The common man is confused and in search of where to find help and meaning in life.
Amid this search for help and meaning, Jesus in the Gospel reading (Matthew 11:25-30), invites us to come to him. He invites all who labour and are overburdened to come to him and find rest. We all labour in one way or the other. Parents labour to provide for their hungry families. Children labour to support themselves and their parents. Many expect to find rest when their salaries, allowances and debts are paid, yet these are not forthcoming. They begin to labour again in protest to unpaid wages. Some are overburdened by their family commitments, taking care of sick and aged relatives without any support. Some are even overburdened by themselves because they can hardly provide their basic needs, yet they have no one to give them rest. The Good News is that no matter how much we are labouring or overburdened, Jesus is promising to give us rest if we come to him.
THERE ARE 5 WAYS THROUGH WHICH WE CAN GO TO JESUS:
- THROUGH PRAYER: As we labour and get overburdened with family commitments and responsibilities, we have to come to Jesus in prayer for the promised rest. We have to pray as a family and ask for God’s assistance within this period. Jesus says, “where two or three gather in my name, I am there” (Mt. 18:20). Besides family or group prayer, we have to be committed to private prayers, where we seek intimacy with Jesus.
- THROUGH READING THE BIBLE: The Bible is God’s message of salvation for us. Each time we read the Bible meditatively, we encounter Jesus who consoles us and inspires us to find solutions to our problem. He is the Word of God contained in the Bible.
- THROUGH WORKS OF CHARITY DONE TO OTHERS: The first reading (Zechariah 9:9-10) informs us that our King comes to us victorious and triumphant, yet, he comes in humility and riding on a donkey. What it means is that those who don’t know him may not recognize him. Likewise, Jesus comes to us in the poor and marginalized of the society, waiting to give us rest if only we welcome and assist him in them. Jesus says: “Whatever you do for the least of your brethren, you do for me” (Mt. 25:40).
- THROUGH THE CHURCH, HER MINISTERS AND SACRAMENTS: Jesus is the head of his body, the Church (Col. 1:18). When Paul was persecuting the Church, Jesus asked him: “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). In the Church, Jesus still invites us to come and listen to his Word, pray with him to the Father through the Holy Spirit and encounter him both in the minister who celebrates and in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession. Most of us are overburdened by sin and Jesus invites us to come to him at the confessional for rest. He invites us to visit him in the Blessed Sacrament and receive him in the Holy Eucharist, to find rest for our troubled soul.
- THROUGH IMITATING THE LIFE OF CHRIST: In his days, Jesus laboured for the salvation of all and was overburdened by fear, hatred and man’s inhumanity to man which culminated on his death on the Cross. At a time, he wished “the cup would pass him by” (Mt. 26:39 ) so that he could find some worldly rest from pain and anxiety. But rather than desire this kind of rest, he found true rest in the will of his Father. He also invites us to take up our cross and follow him (cf. Mt. 16:24), thus imitating him. Does it mean we will keep walking, working and following him and never finding rest? No! In his will is our rest because those who want to save their lives by finding worldly and transient rest will lose them and those who lose their lives in pursuit of the lasting rest which Jesus alone can give, will find them (cf. Mt. 26:25).
Beloved friends, Jesus gives two kinds of rest: temporal and eternal rest. By temporal rest, Jesus, in this world, takes care of our temporal needs so as to sustain our faith in him. By eternal rest, Jesus, in the world to come, gives everlasting peace and consolation to those who make effort to carry their crosses and follow him in this world. For example, Jesus gave temporal rest to the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and to all those he healed of one ailment or the other. He gave eternal rest to the thief who stood for him on the Cross when he said: “Today I will be with you in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Therefore, whatever it is you are currently passing through, carry your cross faithfully and follow Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived because the devil gives a fake promise of rest to those who worship him. But remember that those who choose other gods increase their sorrows (cf. Ps. 16:4). Through the Word we have read/heard today, may God grant us temporal and eternal rest. Amen. God loves you.
Rev. Chibuike C. Uwakwe