Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion

INTRODUCING FR. FREDDIE'S GOSPEL REFLECTIONS

for Multi-purpose

1. These reflections are not written like an essay, but in six precise steps. Choose what you like.

2. They are not meant only for preaching homilies, but for a multi-purpose: for teaching, prayer (either personal or common), reflections and socio-pastoral guidance.

3. They can be used outside the liturgical celebrations also on any other occasions for preaching (by using the same text), private and common prayers, Bible Vigil, Adoration, Prayer Service, Gospel Sharing, conferences, talks, etc.

4. Only the Gospel text prescribed for the Sunday Liturgy in the Catholic Church is used for these reflections, and not the First and Second Readings. The latter are quoted only for reference. Those who want to include them, have to find their own applications.

5. These reflections are written from a pastoral and spiritual perspective, and not from academic or exegetical.

6. The preachers have an option to develop only the focus-statements given in Step 2 on their own into a full-fledged homily. If they want to make their homily shorter, they need not include all the points/thoughts written by the author; instead can select what they like, and (if they want) add their own stories/ anecdotes/ examples.

7. The title, “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion” indicates the author’s intention to highlight the life-sustaining or life-saving issues in our world and society in the midst of anti-life forces.

8. Though much of the material presented in these reflections is author's, no claim is made for the originality of all the thoughts and ideas. They are adopted from various authors.

9. Reproduction of these reflections in any form needs prior permission.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

16th Sunday of Year A

Sixteenth Sunday of Year A [Mt 13:24-43]
23 July 2017
The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds
(1) Wis 12:13.16-19 (2) Rom 8:26-27
1.  Theme in brief
Tolerance, patience and non-judgmental attitudes
2.   Focus Statement  
The disciples of Jesus should exercise God’s own qualities of enormous tolerance and patience towards evil or bad people in the world, instead of forcibly uprooting or weeding them out straightaway.     
3.   Explanation of the text
The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds in today’s gospel is another illustration taken from agricultural field to explain one more feature of God’s Kingdom. Like the Sower’s parable, we have this one also both in its original sense (13:24-30) and in its allegorized form (13:36-43), that is, each detail or point in it is given a separate (hidden) meaning. In the original sense, the single spiritual truth contained in this parable is this: The Kingdom of God is not a society of pure saints, but a mixture of good and bad people, or saints and sinners. What should be the attitude of disciples towards evil or bad people in God’s Kingdom? Instead of forcibly uprooting or weeding out the bad people and unbelievers, the disciples should exercise God’s own qualities of enormous tolerance and patience till the ‘harvest time’ (that is, till the final judgement of God) comes. They should leave the work of judging and separating in God’s hands.
Unlike the previous one, this parable does not have one but two sowers: one good sower who sows good seeds of wheat and another evil sower (an enemy) who secretly sows weeds among the wheat when all are asleep (13:24-25). [Note: Here Jesus refers to a weed called darnel in Palestine that closely resembles wheat. Before the plants mature, it is very difficult to make out the difference between the two.] At maturity, the householder's slaves notice the weeds and wonder where these weeds came from (13:27), doubting about the quality of the seed sown by their master. When they come to know from the master that it is the work of an enemy, they want to react by uprooting the weeds straightaway (13:28). He restrains them and allows both wheat and weeds to grow together till harvest (13:29-30), indicating God’s immense patience and tolerance of evil people till the time for judgement and separation will come.
The allegorized version of the parable (13:37-42) gives a little different understanding. It clearly explains the hidden meaning point by point:  the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man (13: 37); the field is the world (13:38); the good seeds are the children of the Kingdom (13:38); the weeds are the children of the evil one (13:38); the enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil (13:39); the harvest is the end of the age (13:39); and the reapers the angels (13;39). Hence, this parable clearly contrasts the children of God’s Kingdom with the children of the evil one (or the devil). Further, it contrasts the glory (shining) of the former with the doom of the latter at the time of harvest (at the end of the age, 13:40).
4.  Application to life                      
Our world, society, Church and family all have their own wheat and weeds. All of them have a mixture of good and evil people, virtuous and sinners. A question always haunts our mind: why does God allow evil or evildoers to thrive? Why doesn’t he uproot them straightaway? In our world there is so much concern for human welfare, but at the same time so much cruelty; in the family there is so much love and joy, but enough suffering, divisions, anxieties and tensions; and in the Church there are saintly people, but also sinners and scandal mongers. Yes, Jesus says it clearly without mincing words that the Kingdom of God inaugurated on earth by him is and will always be a mixture of true believers and unrepentant sinners. We wish how wonderful and ‘pure’ our world would be without hardened sinners, criminals and anti-social elements in it. We dream of a world where there would be only pure, good, gentle, kind, charitable and well-meaning people.  When we fail to find such ‘pure’ people, as the slaves of the householder mentioned in today’s parable wished, we too wish that all evildoers may be weeded out immediately.
When God or the authorities in the world fail to root out evildoers as we wish, there is a tendency in us to take the matters into our own hands and deal with evil or evildoers. We wish to weed out all those who do not accept our ideology, viewpoint, faith practices, religious doctrine, social customs and traditions, political viewpoints, etc. We tend to judge other religions and churches or Christian denominations as devilish and superstitious and consign them to eternal damnation. We categorize people as “believers” and “non-believers”, “good” and “bad” people, “liberals” and “conservatives”, “reliable” and “cheats”, the “faithful” and the “unfaithful”, “virtuous” and “sinners”, etc. There is an expressed or unexpressed wish in our minds to eliminate the wicked instantly and teach them a lesson. In our mind we imagine an immediate and stern action against them before the matter goes out of hands. In other words,
Here comes our Divine Master through today’s parable to stop us from taking such an action. He says that it is not so easy to make out who is ‘wheat’ and who is ‘weed’ and who is ‘in’ who is ‘out’ of God’s Kingdom. Only God knows the hearts of people and will separate both on the Judgement Day. Uprooting straightaway would do more damage to the crop than good. Jesus says that the ‘reapers’ or the angels at the harvest time will gather all the evildoers and throw them into the furnace. As we are only the ‘slaves’ of God’s Kingdom, it is not our work. We should be well aware of the fact that there are two sowers in our world: God and the devil. We just cannot ignore the fact that there is evil in the midst of good inside each one of us and in the world around us. This parable warns us not to take God’s work into our own hands; and instead, keep ourselves busy in building up God’s Kingdom.
Do we listen to the master in today’s parable who does not allow his slaves to take such an immediate and drastic step? He objects to such an action because, first of all, it is not so easy to distinguish the weeds from the wheat till they reach maturity, and secondly rooting out the weeds right now might do more harm to the crop than good. Immediate uprooting is risky because who can judge human heart fully except God? Those who externally appear saintly may be internally corrupt. There is a victim crying for justice even in the worst of criminals. Are we fully aware why criminals become criminals? Quite often family, society and governments (unconsciously and indirectly) create or lay the foundation for criminal behaviour by inflicting deep emotional wounds and bitterness. If justice was denied to children in their childhood by either lack of love or authoritarianism or by a traumatic experience, they may cry for it in their adult life by their criminal behaviour. Drastic and immediate uprooting is also dangerous because, in that case, we deprive the ‘weeds’ (evildoers) among us to get plenty of opportunities to turn into ‘wheat’ ( or be converted) till the end of their lives.
We observe that In general, human society is not compassionate towards people with criminal/ deviant/ addictive/ immoral behaviour; it stigmatizes them. Normally we react to such people in one of these ways: becoming intolerant towards them, harshly judging them, showing impatience at their lack of reform and condemning them severely. Though we need to correct them by following the prescribed rules or norms, does mere condemnation or punishment reform them? By judging them with hundred per cent certainty, are we not taking the place of God? Today’s gospel-message invites us to leave the final judgement of evil people to God. God is patient; he allows the good and the wicked to live together till the end. As God tolerates the sinners and gives them plenty of opportunities for repentance, we too should show respect and tolerance towards such people. We tend to be intolerant of others’ weaknesses and generous with our own; don’t we?
The parable calls for patience with those who do not meet our standards with the faith that God will deal with them in his own time in the way he wants. Uprooting them now itself may create more problems than solving them. We might destroy the good with the bad. All the parents, teachers and leaders are called to put up with people who resist any change and reform. We need a reservoir of God’s grace to tolerate the intolerable and be on our guard not to allow frustration to become our master that drives us where we are not supposed to go. If we want to see a wonderful family/ society/ Church, what we need is a wonderful patience. After all, all of us are imperfect people and have to be patient with other imperfect people. By the way, this principle is meant to be practiced on a personal level and not to be applied to the area of administration/ management, where sometimes we may have to take a disciplinary action against wrongdoers.
The owner of the field in today’s parable is quite different from any sensible farmer. Which reasonable farmer would wait till the harvest to root out the weeds? He would do it as soon as he is able to distinguish wheat from weeds so that he does not incur any loss. Jesus tells us that God is so different from a sensible farmer. In all his parables he tells us about various features of God’s Kingdom. This parable also tells us that the new society visualized by Jesus (called the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s gospel), is not supposed to be a society where intolerance, condemnation and harsh judgement rule. Instead, tolerance, respect and acceptance of differences among humans and diversity of faith traditions/ culture/ language/ race are the features of this society. We exhibit the traits of a rival kingdom, namely Satan’s kingdom (dominion), when we judge and condemn evildoers harshly and wish for their destruction.  Anyway, weeds will ultimately be destroyed at the time of ‘harvest’ (that is, final judgement). We should leave that job to God himself.
We can notice a growing tendency of intolerance towards others’ religion, race, caste, gender, language, region and nation in our world today. The growth of religious fundamentalism, instances of racism, linguistic bigotry, gender discrimination and riots among two different religious communities are symptoms of it. Sometimes we contribute to this evil by our own intolerant/ discriminatory/ prejudicial behaviour and talk, especially in front of innocent children. We exhibit intolerance towards those who hold contrary ideologies, religious beliefs, and those belonging to other religious sects. Today’s gospel-message invites us to positively and consciously cultivate a spirit of respect for and acceptance of diversity or differences that exist in our society and world. Today’s gospel invites us to think of what we can do to promote a better understanding and a spirit of mutual respect and co-existence among us in spite of our differences.
Let us forget about others. Each one of us is a mixture of goodness and evil, holiness and sinfulness. Spiritual Gurus speak about seven basic inclinations to sin inherent in all of us by birth – pride, anger, greed, lust, sloth, envy and gluttony – that constantly drive us towards evil thoughts and actions. We need to wage a regular war or forcefully struggle to resist the dominion of these seven ‘demons’ over our lives. God gives us plenty of chances to change ourselves from ‘weeds’ into ‘wheat’. With the power of God’s Spirit we must weed out evil tendencies and deeds until the end of our lives by constantly following the path of repentance and conversion.
If we like to take the allegorized version, we must ask ourselves whether we are good seed (wheat) sown by Jesus or evil seed sown by Satan; whether we are the children of God’s Kingdom or the children of the evil one (or devil); and whether we shall shine like the sun in the Kingdom of the Father or will be doomed for ever.
5.  Response to God's Word
Inspired by today’s gospel-message, are we wiling to overcome an expressed or unexpressed wish or desire in our minds to eliminate the wicked instantly? Imitating God’s own quality, are we willing to give the ‘weeds’ (evildoers) among us plenty of opportunities to turn into or be converted into ‘wheat’? Though we need to deal with criminals and rebellious/deviant behaviour according to social norms and family’s traditions, are we in the forefront of only condemnation and harsh judgement without taking any positive steps for their reform? Do we respect and accept the differences that exist among people of a different religion, race, caste, gender, language, region and nation? What can we do to promote a better understanding and a spirit of co-existence among all people…?
6.  A prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is intolerance, let me sow respect and acceptance of differences among us. Where there is mere condemnation, compassion; where there are judgemental attitudes, understanding; where there is impatience, endurance; where there is evil, goodness; and where there is hopelessness, hope.  Amen.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

15th Sunday of Year A

Fifteenth Sunday of Year A [Mt 13:1-23]
16 July 2017
The Parable of the Sower
Readings: (1) Is 55:10-11 (2) Rom 8:18-23
1. Theme in brief:
Faithfulness in spite of doubts and failures
2.  Focus Statement:  
(1) In spite of poor response and discouragement, we should not lose heart and be faithful to the task of sowing the seeds of God’s Word. OR (2) Reception and response to the Word of God depends on the type of soil.
3.  Explanation of the text
In the strict sense, a parable is a fictitious story or illustration to explain one single truth; the details in it have no separate meaning. Jesus uses parables to explain the various characteristics of God’s Kingdom. But sometimes the evangelists understand and apply the parables to their missionary situations as allegories; that is, each detail or point in them is given a separate (inner) meaning. The Parable of the Sower in today’s gospel text is one of the parables which is allegorized. Hence, it could be understood in both ways: in original sense (13:3-9) and in allegorized sense (13:18-23).
First, let us consider the Parable of the Sower in the strictly original sense, that is, according to its single spiritual truth (13:3-9). Originally, this parable must have been given by Jesus to instil encouragement and hope in the disciples in the face of failures and discouragement. The reason was most of the Jewish leaders and the elite of Jewish society were totally rejecting Jesus and his message. Hence, the disciples had a doubt whether Jesus’ great project about God’s Kingdom would succeed at all. In answer to this doubt, Jesus told this Parable of the Sower to instil hope in them. He wanted to drive home this message: they should not be discouraged or disappointed even if most of the ‘seeds’ sown by them go wasted or fail to germinate. The seeds refer to the Word of God regarding the Kingdom of God that is sown in people’s heart (13:18). These ‘seeds’ sown by them will not get universal acceptance, especially in the initial stage. In spite of initial failures, they should be faithful to their duty of ‘sowing’ with full hope in God who alone will bring about enormous results in his own time. In other words, In spite of apparent failure, God’s Kingdom will eventually succeed, if the disciples are faithful to their task of sowing seeds of God’s Word – if not a hundredfold, at least sixty and thirty (13:8).
In the second part we get an allegorized version of this parable (13:18-23). It focuses on reception of the ‘seed’ ‘by various kinds of ‘soil.’ It explains the hidden meaning of this parable point by point and applies it to life-situation of the hearers (13:18-23), or their varying responses to "the word of the kingdom" (13:19). Though it is not mentioned directly, it is clear that the sower is Jesus himself who sows the seeds of the Word (of God’s Kingdom, 13:19). The soil or the ground is human heart or the receivers and hearers of the word. The parable contrasts first three types of wasted seeds or fruitless ground with the fourth fruitful one, and explains the reasons why most of the seeds go wasted. The seeds go wasted precisely because they fall on bad or unfit soil, namely footpath, rocky and thorny ground. Therefore, reception and response to the Word of God depends on the type of soil. Here are the different types of receivers who are compared to four types of soil or ground:
(1)   Footpaths are those who do not understand the deeper implications of the Word because of which the evil one is able to snatch away easily what is sown in their hearts (13:19).
(2)   Rocky grounds are those who have no roots because of their superficial faith. Their initial enthusiasm withers away (13:6) and they do not endure when trouble and persecution comes (13:20-21).
(3)   Thorny grounds those who allow the Word to get chocked due to worldly cares and the lure of wealth (13:22).
(4)   Good soil refers to those who are free from all these three obstacles. They take the Word seriously and live by it. They are the ones who bear abundant fruits (13:23). It is clear that the good soil stands for receivers with proper dispositions; and bad soil refers to hearers with improper dispositions.
4.   Application to life                       
Taken in its strict sense, this Parable of the Sower applies to all the sowers – teachers and preachers – of the Word of God. Preaching of the Word, imparting faith to others and inculcating values of God’s Kingdom are like sowing seeds into people’s hearts. There they sprout, grow and yield fruits. As parents, teachers, leaders (religious and civil society’s), guides, pastors, administrators and animators, we are like sowers who sow the seeds of God’s Word or seeds (values) of God’s Kingdom. We also sow seeds of faith in God, good conduct, human and spiritual values, order and discipline in the hearts of those whom we care. But the hearers or receivers – our children, students, subjects, parishioners, co-workers, audience, etc. – are like various types of soil. Most of our words, advice, guidance and directions may go wasted or unheeded. Very little of it may be obeyed or followed up by very few. Nowadays we hear most often parents/ teachers/ superiors complaining about the disobedience of children/ students/ subjects which creates a lot of frustration and discouragement in them. When asked about the reasons for such behaviour, parents mostly cite children’s pride derived from better/higher education, or the bad influence of TV, ‘filmy culture’, mobile phones, computer, video games, internet and bad companions.
Though this is true to a great extent, there are far deeper reasons of which many of the ‘sowers’ may not be aware: (1) What they preach/teach may not be matching with their personal example, due to which children/ students/ subjects do not respect their word and disobey them. Respect to authority is essential for obedience. For example, if children often hear their parents telling them not to fight among themselves but see their mummy and daddy fighting with each other regularly, or hear their teachers telling them not to smoke or drink but see them doing the same things, they lose respect towards them. This loss of respect for their authority results in disobedience. (2) Parents/ teachers/ superiors and those in positions of authority may be regularly criticizing, blaming, condemning and lowering the image of their higher superiors in workplaces or in the Church in front of children/ students. This may create in children disrespect (disobedience) towards any authority by saying or thinking like this: “After all, we know what type of persons these authorities are!” In this situation, today’s parable tells all the above-mentioned ‘sowers’ to make a decision of the mind to practice what they preach, at least to some extent. As they too are weak mortals, whenever they fail to do so (especially when their failure is known to children, students, etc.), if they can cultivate the habit of expressing regrets for their bad example, they will be respected. Instead of going through this humble exercise, many of them yield to the temptation of giving up any advice or correction to anybody out of frustration. Then they go on repeating the same ‘litany’: “Nowadays nobody listens….”
Second type of discouragement comes from repeated failures – failure to succeed in spite of our hard efforts; to get immediate and expected answer to our continual prayers; to reform those who have gone astray or gone wayward; to change people of bad character or disobedient/rebellious behaviour; to get a decent job; to overcome our bad habits; etc. Sometimes all our efforts seem to be useless. When we look at the record of our own spiritual life we wonder how much progress we really have made over the years. When I give homilies during the Holy Mass, I wonder whether it is worth the trouble, since hardly anybody (including myself) changes. A question arises in my mind, why to preach at all and why to take the trouble of writing and publishing these “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion.” A thought comes in my mind: What or whose life am I promoting? There is a similar doubt in the minds of many parents whether the trouble they take to bring up their children in the best way possible is worth, since they are not sure whether their children will repay their love in any way.
Failures and disappointments in life may even create doubts in our minds whether there is an Almighty God who rules. The message of today’s parable tells us that there is no quick-fix solution for many problems of life. Change and reform is not like instant coffee or fast food. When we become pessimistic after facing failures after failures, the Lord tells us: “Instead of crying, ‘What wrong have I done to get this,’ be patient and trust in me. Do not give up. Be faithful to your work of ‘sowing’ in season and out of season and leave the result in my hands. I am the Master of your destiny and understand your problems more than you do.” What is our response to God’s assurance?
Further, this parable tells us that we should not lose heart and give up hope at the lack of response to God’s Word or to our efforts to work for his Kingdom. We have to be faithful to our duties and responsibilities and go on doing our good work in spite of indifference, lack of response and rejection from those who are under our care and lack of support from them for our innovative ideas or initiatives. We have to leave the fruit in God’s hands because it is he who brings about his Kingdom. As Mother Teresa used to say, we should always think that we are called by the Lord to be faithful to our tasks and not always to be successful. We need to regret for the times we gave up our efforts and good works at the lack of instant or immediate result – a sign of our faithlessness.
Alternately, the allegorized version of this parable (as explained above) speaks about the fate of the seed in different types of ground or soil. It teaches us that response to God’s Word or to his Kingdom varies according to the type of soil. Footpath refers to those who allow the evil one (devil), bad companions, bad effects of the mass media, to snatch away the values of God’s Kingdom sown in human hearts. Rocky ground refers to those disciples who do not endure as disciples. The reason for their stumbling is the lack of deep roots or depth of faith in them that makes them too weak to resist trouble and persecution on account of God’s Word. When the values of God’s Kingdom conflict with the dominant values of the world or the prevailing culture, they fall away. For example, when God’s justice conflicts with world’s unjust structures and exploitative tactics, they choose the safest and more comfortable ways of the world. Thorny ground refers to those who allow the Word to be chocked by the cares of the world and the lure of wealth. The former refers to our tendency to allow anxiety to drive us instead of God, and the latter our attempt to look for total security in money or wealth by permitting it to rule over our hearts without any reference to God or his providential care. St. Paul warns us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:10).
Good soil refers to those who fight the devil, are willing to face troubles and persecutions for God’s Kingdom, and are not driven by money or wealth but by God. They hear, understand and obey the Word of God. They bear fruits that prove that they are committed disciples and faithful servants or stewards of God’s Kingdom. There is a clear indication in this parable that initial enthusiasm and joyful reception of God’s Word need not necessarily be a sign of true and committed discipleship. The question is whether a disciple is able to win over the tests of faith or temptations to dilute one’s commitment. True discipleship is measured by perseverance till the end.
As sowers of the seeds of the Kingdom-values, this parable asks us: “Do we carefully prepare the ground or soil in the hearts of receivers of the ‘seeds’, so that they may sprout, grow and yield plentiful harvest?” As receivers or hearers, this parable invites us to examine whether we, like the footpath (wayside), allow the evil power/ bad companions/ secular values to take away the Kingdom-values sown in our hearts; whether, like the rocky ground, our faith is superficial or lacks real depth; whether we, like the thorny ground, allow worldly cares (like taking our work, business and wealth as if these were our gods) to choke those values; or whether we, like the good soil, receive God’s Word with total disposition and live by it.
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we take our responsibility of sowing the seeds of God’s values into the hearts of children and those who are under our care? How often have we given up our efforts and good initiatives because there was no immediate result? As sowers of good values, does what we preach and teach match with what we practice? What kind of soil are we? Is it not true that something of all the four types of soil is found in us, and we need to struggle everyday to increase the percentage of the fourth type – the good soil?
6.  A prayer

Grant, O Lord, that I may place unshakable hope in you when I face doubts and failures. Keep me faithful to my duties and responsibilities without looking for instant success. Amen.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Fourteenth Sunday of Year A

Fourteenth Sunday of Year A [Mt 11:25-30]
09 July 2017
Jesus Thanks His Father and Promises Rest for our Souls
Readings: (1) Zech 9:9-10 (2) Rom 8:9.11-13
1.  Theme in brief:
Father’s revelation to the little ones and Jesus’ invitation to the burdened
2.   Focus Statement:   
God reveals his mysteries not to the wise and the intelligent, but to the humble and the little ones; through his Son (Jesus) he promises to give rest to those who are restless and are laden with heavy burdens.
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel Jesus thanks the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing his gracious will not to “the wise and the intelligent” but to the “infants” (11:25-26). The "wise and intelligent" may refer to those who reject him and his message. Perhaps it refers in particular to the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus often accuses of hypocrisy. They take pride in their knowledge of the Law of Moses but “neglect justice, mercy, and faith” (23:23).
The "infants," on the contrary are those whom the world does not consider wise and prominent. Figuratively, they refer to all the little ones or those who are powerless and helpless, humble and lowly. It is God's gracious will to act in ways that confound human wisdom (11:26), and so these "infants" see what the "wise" cannot – that Jesus is sent by the Father and reveals him (11:27). These little ones are the people to whom the Father chooses to make known his will. In other words, in his prayer to the Father, Jesus contrasts the wise and the intelligent – those who are too proud and arrogant in their knowledge, with the infants – those who are childlike and are open to God’s truth. Jesus has a ‘soft corner’ for this kind of ‘infants’ (11:25), and it is his Father’s gracious will that his Son should show more concern for this category of people (11:26).
We can understand this passage in another way: If we have to enter into the mystery of God’s love for us and be open to his grace, we should have the attitude of ‘infants’ or children (11:25). Only those who are conscious of their littleness and are totally dependent on God (like infants) can advance in their knowledge of the mysteries of God. In other words, if the wise and the intelligent have to grow in the knowledge of God, they too should become like children – humble enough to learn, open and frank, trusting and depending on God.
Jesus alone can reveal exactly what God is like and who are the people of his special favour and concern because of his intimacy or close communion (that is, ‘knowledge’ in biblical sense) with the Father (11:27). Due to this, he has revealed to us the image of an infinitely and boundlessly loving God. Through Jesus we come to know that God chooses the little ones to reveal his will and not those wise ones – the scribes and Pharisees – who think that they know everything. The wise and the powerful fail to recognize that God favours the humble and the lowly.
Therefore, in today’s gospel, Jesus invites not the powerful or the wise to follow him, but the humble who are laden with heavy burdens and the weary (11:28) to come to him, learn from him and experience inner rest (11:29). When he refers to burdens, he has in mind the burden of religious obligations imposed by the scribes and Pharisees in his days (11:28). In another place also he speaks about the heavy burdens (that is, multiplication of rules and regulations) laid by the scribes and Pharisees on the shoulders of ordinary people which are too hard to bear (23:4). Taking up his yoke (11:29) refers to the heavy wooden harness that is fitted over the shoulders of an ox or oxen to enable tem to plough through. In the present context, the yoke refers to the burden of the Law of Moses (including its detailed rules) imposed by the religious leaders who demand a servile obedience to it (11:29).
The yoke of Christ becomes easy and his burden light because of his promise to deliver people from the burdens of multiplicity of religious laws by reducing them to the one new law or commandment of love (11:30). His yoke is easy because following him does not mean observing a law, but following a person who is “meek (gentle) and humble of heart” (11:29) and ready to share our burdens. The rest for our souls promised by him could also refer to the gift of salvation, which is far superior to the rest of Sabbath day prescribed in the Mosaic Law (11:29). He invites all those who feel that they are burdened with sins, and are in need of salvation, to come to him and find freedom from the burden of sin, internal joy and peace. His invitation to learn from him refers to his invitation to become his disciples, since it is they who learn from the master.  All disciples have to learn or imitate his gentleness and humility to the point of death on a cross (Phil 2:8).
4.  Application to life                     
From Jesus’ prayer to his Father in the first part of today’s gospel, we understand that the Father chooses to make known his will to those who are childlike, are open to his truth and are totally dependent on him. In human society we observe that children depend on people (especially their parents and elders) on things, such as land, property, money and social status.  But in spite of the security provided by these things, we live in an atmosphere of anxiety, stress, fear, insecurity and despair. There are people who carry heavy burdens – burdens of serious sins, guilt generated by past wrongdoings, personal weaknesses or defects of character, bad habits, unforgiving attitudes, bitterness, emotional wounds, doubts of faith, tensions, struggles, anxieties, loneliness and responsibilities of life or work, etc. We have to carry the burdens of our families and work. Sometimes we find even our religious obligations and spiritual duties a burden. For some people life itself becomes a burden. These burdens do cause restlessness and stress in us. It is only by becoming childlike or imitating the children’s qualities of openness and dependence (on God) as well as the gentleness (meekness) and humility of Jesus can we experience inner peace and quietness. 
In spite of all our higher education, qualification, immense knowledge and intellectual calibre, we are fragile human beings and are constantly in need of God’s grace. The more we humble ourselves and accept our limitations, the more we become attuned to so many signs of God’s love even in small things or events. We need to learn this type of humility and gentleness from Jesus. We also need his humility to accept what God reveals to us in good times and bad times. His love lies hidden in whatever happens to us. Thus, as disciples, we are perpetual learners of God’s love from our Master. We learn that as God’s love has no boundaries, so our service and concern should be; as God’s love has no conditions, so we should do good even to those who have done harm to us. The unconditional love of Jesus for those who are burdened with sins and other problems of life as well as those who are weary of life leads him to extend a warm invitation to come to him and learn from him, that is, to imitate his meekness and humility of heart. He invites us to surrender all our burdens before him in humble obedience to God’s will, and experience the peace and inner joy.
In this context, it is worthwhile to mention Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s thoughts on humility or meekness. According to him, the world thinks that meekness is weakness. It wants that we should be aggressive enough to return tit for tat for offences caused to us. Far from being weakness, meekness is the inner strength (spiritual force) that enables us to control aggressiveness and violent nature in each one of us. Without this controlling force, the animal nature in us will come out with full vigour. A meek person is not the one who never fights or reacts. Such a person decides to fight only when a moral principal or a spiritual value is trampled upon, and not when his/her ego is attacked.
The anger of the meek person is directed against injustice and other forms of oppression/exploitation/corruption. This type of anger is called justified anger, like the one Jesus showed towards traders and money-changers in the temple of Jerusalem when they were exploiting the people’s religious sentiments by charging higher price for the sheep and doves to be offered for sacrifice (and by giving a lower rate of exchange for foreign coins) in order to make higher profit (Jn 2:13-16). Further, Archbishop Fulton Sheen instructs that humility is not an underestimation of our talents, gifts and qualification, nor is it their exaggeration. If a person who holds a Ph.D. says that he/she is a matriculate, it is not humility at all, but dishonesty. Humility is the recognition of gifts as gifts, faults as faults. Do we have the habit of saying: “I was mistaken” or “I was wrong?”
Pride takes several forms. One of them is called intellectual pride. Though intellectual pursuit and higher education in secular sciences as well as in theology is a great need, those who undergo such training should be on their guard to avoid arrogance. If intellectual pride sets in, we can become unteachable and begin to think we know everything or have heard it before. God does not reveal himself or his loving plans to those who think they know everything and have answers for all problems of life. When we put on this type attitude we forget that only God holds the key to all problems and there is so much to learn from even simple and ordinary people. Sometimes I am put to shame by the patience of uneducated workers who work in our institutions. When I become restless and impatient at the lack of instant results, they say: “Don’t worry; soon it will be alright.” In order to be worthy to receive God’s revelation, Jesus invites the wise and the intelligent among us to resist pride and become childlike – humble and lowly, open to God and trust in him more our degrees; to trust in his power more than human power. We learn from our Master throughout our life how to take the form of a slave in spite of being equal to God (Phil 2:6-7); how to stoop down and wash the feet of one another like a servant (Jn 13:14); how to use anger for a justified cause and not for protecting our ego; and how to forgive those who challenge us to come down from our crosses.
In modern times we are increasingly becoming fearful, tense, angry, bitter, revengeful, anxious, disappointed, lonely, rejected and restless. All these negative factors have a strong negative effect on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. We need to acknowledge that the root cause of all our heart-problems is our failure to imitate the humble and meek qualities of Jesus. The rest that Jesus promises is not freedom from all troubles but a healing touch and peace with God. This takes place when we learn to place all our burdens before him in faith and make a deep act of surrender. Whenever we find it too difficult to carry our burdens, we must approach Jesus in prayer and say repeatedly: “I humbly accept before you my Lord and God that I am a helpless person. My life has become unmanageable with this entire burden. I am totally dependent on your power and grace for deliverance from this burden. I surrender myself to your power. I place myself into your loving and caring hands. Lead me where you want; do what you want with me.” This sort of surrender can change meaninglessness, restlessness and boredom of life into meaningfulness and inner quietness – the rest for our souls as promised by Christ.
As we saw in the explanation above, another meaning of “rest” is salvation. Since those who are weary of carrying heavy burdens are in need of salvation and freedom, they can experience it in him and through him. If we do anything out of love, even the heaviest burdens can become light. In other words, a genuine love can make even the heaviest burdens light. Lack of love can cause restlessness in our hearts. Christ’s invitation for us is to imitate his humility and compassionate love, that is, to become a humble servant and love as he loved us. It is up to each one of us to accept or reject this invitation. If we accept it, we find liberation and salvation from our selfishness and interior rest (that is, peace) in spite of occasional feelings of restlessness.
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we allow anxiety, stress, fear, insecurity and despair take control of us instead of allowing God to take control of our lives with the humility of a child? What are the heavy burdens that we carry at the moment? If we experience restlessness and lack of inner peace what could be the reason? Do we react only when our ego is attacked, and not when any injustice is done? Do we now and then admit before others that we do not know everything and don’t have answers for all problems of life? Do we depend on God’s power more than our power, and trust him more than our qualifications/talents?  Do we place all our burdens before him in faith and make a deep act of surrender to him in prayer? What are things we learned in this week from our Teacher (Jesus)?
6.  A Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me the strength to bear the cost of humility. When I think that everything depends on me, it tells me that everything depends on you. When I want to be in total control of my life and everything else, it tells me that you are in control. When I think that I know everything and have solutions to all problems, it tells me that my knowledge is limited in spite of my qualifications. Grant that as a disciple, I may learn from you more and more of meekness and humility. Amen.