“I bless you Father Lord of heaven and earth…”
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr John Farrell shows how today’s Gospel gives us an insight into the life of the Holy Trinity.
In today’s gospel we eavesdrop on the Trinity. In the midst of his public ministry in Galilee – indeed in the midst of public rejection of himself, his ways and his teaching, – Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God turns to his Heavenly Father. We are allowed access to the intimacy of the Beloved Son and the Almighty Father “Lord of heaven and earth. The same can be said of the voice at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. But there the voice is from heaven. Here it arises from the earth.
It is significant that, within the flow of the story as told by Matthew, this serene and shimmering prayer not only emerges out of a chapter of doubt about Jesus and rejection of him by his fellow Galileans but it is also followed by a chapter full of conflict, containing a reference to the Suffering Servant of the prophet Isaiah and the first mention of a conspiracy to destroy him.
Just as greater pressure forces a fountain of water to rise higher and fuller in its majesty, so this confining resistance to his person, his ways and his teaching, gives rise to this divine and human outburst of praise, blessing and preaching. It resounds also in the Magnificat of his mother Mary, the mother of the poor and oppressed.
The prayer moves on to an invitation: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest”. He does not say “Come to God”. He says “Come to me”. And he describes himself as a Master and Teacher who is “meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls”. As the following Isaiah prophecy will put it:” He will not break a bruised reed nor quench the smouldering wick”. His personal presence to all his disciples is the key. Here in Matthew’s gospel he is described, at the beginning of the gospel, as “Emmanuel – God with us”. Later, at the centre, ch 18, we are told that where two or three gather in his name” I, I myself, am with you”: at the last verse of the gospel he says – “Know that I am with you always until the end of time”.
Between the prayer and the invitation is the revelation of divine providence. “No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son”. But this twin saying is deliberately broken open – “and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
The verbs here are all in the present tense. It is impacting now in every here and now in this realm of the Risen and Crucified Lord. This present invitation is given to us not just in the letter of the scriptures but in the Holy Spirit who calls us to conversion from false certainties to a receptivity to discipleship under a meek and humble Master, who speaks to us and offers peace to our hearts.
The yoke of Christian discipleship is said to be easy and light. The Pentecostal Spirit of the Father and Son graces us into repentance and renewal of life. But the same Spirit of Jesus graces us further to integrate into each on-going and unique life, the gifts, above all, of prayerful attentiveness and courageous Hope in the person and ways and teachings of Jesus present amongst us.
The yoke of Christian discipleship is said to be easy and light. But the burdens Christians and others have to carry using this yoke are often heavy and destructive. “In the word you will have trouble” he told us. The last century witnessed more Christian martyrs than any other, and at this very moment our brother and sister disciples in the Middle East, Pakistan, many parts of Africa and elsewhere are suffering from civil disorder, persecution, violence, injustice and murder. But it is not only Christians who are suffering. Nor is it only Christians who are brothers and sisters of the Crucified Christ. In his last words of his last parable before his Passion, in this same gospel, Jesus will say: “in as much as you do not do this for the least of my brethren, you did not do it for me.” (Mt 28.45)
“And in his name/his person all the nations shall find hope”.(Mt12.21)