14th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

In order to properly understand what St. Paul is teaching us in today’s second reading we need to know the meaning of the words he uses. That is why I want to take a look at the word “flesh” and begin this reflection by asking you to not equate “flesh” with “body.” St. Paul uses the word flesh to speak of human frailty, a concept that goes far beyond that which is merely sensual. St. Paul isn’t limiting himself to sins of human sensuality. He is instead pointing to human weaknesses, particularly sins that include idolatry, materialism, hatred and racism, rivalry and competitiveness, jealousy, envy, elitism, arrogance, acts of violence, and all such like.

When we contrast the concept of flesh (as St. Paul understands it) with its opposite, we find him speaking about the dominion of the Spirit. In another epistle he tells us that what the Spirit produces in us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control. Christ, say Paul writes, frees us from the dominion of the flesh and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, establishes us in God’s new creation, making us His new children, His new sons and daughters in the resurrected life of His Spirit-filled Christ.

The world of the flesh, the world that is separated from God, wears us down and exhausts us with its heavy burdens. Sins of sensuality bring us disease and addictions. Hatred, envy, arrogance, and elitism tear nations apart in wars. Prejudice and racism tear nations asunder internally and bring exhausting tensions between us as we attempt to live together as one nation. Competitiveness, envy and self-centeredness cause us to be held captive in our business and professional careers at the cost of taking us away from our spouses, children, and families.

We are heavily burdened by our misdeeds. The weight of their consequences is a heavy load indeed. Christ in His merciful compassion knows that our hearts are heavy. Sent by His Father to give us God’s forgiveness and reconciliation, Christ takes on Himself our sins, suffers and dies under their weight, and then give us His power to lift their yoke from our shoulders.

To have those loads lifted, we must be humble. Taking them away is something we cannot do by ourselves. As a matter of fact it is impossible for us to do it by ourselves. We must, in the simplicity of children, trust and hope in what Christ can do for us. We must take His yoke upon us and let Him join us in pulling our loads through life.

God offers, we respond. If we respond in humble acceptance of what He wants to give us, no load will be too heavy. Why? Because the Son of God partners Himself with us. Yoked together, like to oxen are yoked, we can, with Christ at our side, pull any load. No load that life imposes on us can possibly be too heavy if we are joined with Christ. Every heavy load will become light.

In a most astounding and astonishing way, God has offered His power to us in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The amazing thing is that so few have accepted God’s offer. That is a great mystery to me; God’s ways are indeed mysterious. But what is really mysterious to me is the rebellion that lurks in our hearts. One of life’s greatest mysteries is our rejection of the presence, power, and love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ.

Have you known
  • rejection? Jesus has.
  • betrayal? Jesus has.
  • loneliness? Jesus has.
  • pain? Jesus has.
Have you been?
  • victimized? Jesus has.
  • the butt of joke? Jesus has.
  • abused? Jesus has.
  • used and then thrown away? Jesus has.                  
 Why not let Him give you His promise of rest? All of us are looking for rest and relief from what burdens down our hearts and souls. None of us can escape life’s burdens, but all of us can find Christ’s loving care and concern.
What keeps us from experiencing the rest and relief He can give us? What keeps us distant and apart from His love and His power to help us? You just heard His invitation to you: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike…. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

You and I should take His promise seriously and accept His offer.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”