Lifting our burdens
(The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2014 - 12:00am

Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Our First Reading from the Book of Zechariah foretells the coming of the Prince of Peace, “See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass… the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations” (Zech 9:9-10). Unlike the last kings of Israel who were military leaders who slew their enemies, the awaited-for Messiah will be meek and humble, proclaiming an end to violence and war.

We hear this same biblical passage from Zechariah every Palm Sunday. The evangelists see Zechariah’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem where he meets his end.  While the crowds welcome him as their messiah-warrior king by waving palm fronds and laying down their cloaks, Jesus enters the city not riding upon a horse, the war animal, but a colt, the symbol of peace.

Jesus, the Son sent by the Father. Our Gospel reading is taken from Matthew 11 that bemoans the rejection of Jesus by the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees. However, those with childlike faith accept Jesus as the revealer of the heart and mind of the Father. Jesus is able to reveal the heart of God the Father as full of compassion and Abba’s salvific plans because he is from the Father, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no knows the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27).

Jesus, comforter of the weary.  Because he is one with the Father, the giver of life, Jesus is able to comfort the weary, strengthen the weak, and uplift the burdened. In its original context, Jesus was referring to the plight of the simple and devout Jews who were burdened by the rigid interpretation of the Law by the scribes and Pharisees. In contrast, Jesus offers his yoke; that is, his interpretation of the Law, under which they will find rest and comfort and which they will find liberating and life-giving.

Burdened by the Church. Older generations grew-up hearing sermons that stressed our sinfulness and the wrath of God, our well-deserved suffering as punishment for sin and our need for repentance and mortification. I recall a surgeon who continued to practice and perform operations beyond retirement age.  He deprived himself of receiving Holy Communion for years because he would miss a Sunday Mass every so often due to his work and thus thought he was in the state of mortal sin.  When I clarified that missing Sunday Mass due to work was not a mortal sin and that he could hear Mass the day before or after, he felt liberated. And when, at the closing Mass of our recollection, I offered him the body of Christ, he who had not received communion for years, was moved to tears.

In what other ways does our rigid interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus restrain rather than liberate, weigh down rather than uplift, foster scrupulosity rather than a discerning heart?

Burdened by the world.  Our Gospel reading has also been interpreted in more general terms that have brought comfort and solace to all who are burdened by family responsibilities and conflicts, tormented by our inner demons and compulsions, dehumanized by poverty and joblessness, trapped in situations of violence and exploitation.

Jesus, forsaken by his dearest friends, offers his steadfast love to those burdened by betrayal and abandonment. Jesus, unjustly condemned, offers strength to those weighed down by false accusations and calumny. Jesus, scourged and tortured, offers the balm of his love to those dehumanized by exploitation and oppression.  Jesus, nailed to a cross, offers life to those crushed by violence and hatred.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

 

BOOK OF ZECHARIAH BURDENED FATHER GOD THE FATHER GOSPEL OF JESUS JESUS OUR GOSPEL PRINCE OF PEACE SUNDAY MASS
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