FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Zechariah 9: 9-10
Romans 8: 9, 11-13
Matthew 11: 25-30
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel today. And this is an important message for us to remember.
Sooner or later most of us sense that the life we are living is not exactly the life we hoped it would be. We realize that life has its burdens, three of which are prominent.
The first is the burden of daily irritations: standing in a long line, being forced to listen to elevator music while on hold for a half hour, figuring out the endless conditions of Medicare and HMOs. The daily irritations of life are burdens that we all bear. The second burden includes the more serious stuff like poverty, illness and loss. The hurts that don’t want to heal, the anger that won’t go away, the success that is just beyond our grasp. The third burden we carry is the deepest of all, although we tend to suppress it. It is the burden of identity: who am I really? Beneath the cosmetics, the role-playing, the pressures of fashion and belonging, who am I? All our life we deal with this crucial question: who am I really? The first answer we come up with is: “I am what I do.” There is some truth to this. When I do good things and have a little success, I feel good about myself. But when I fail or grow old or sick or am down-sized, I can wonder: now that I am no longer able to do what I used to do, who am I? Or we might say: “I am what other people say about me.” And sometimes this seem to be the most important. When people speak well of me, I can walk around quite confidently. But when someone starts saying negative things about me, I may have doubts about myself. I might even put on some false appearances, trying to please others to reclaim their approval. Finally, we might say, “I am what I have.” For example, “I am an American with successful parents, a good education, fine health and lots of money and clothes and cars.” But as soon as I lose any of these, I can become insecure and feel like a nobody. Still, we can put a lot of energy into maintaining beliefs like: “I am what I do.” “I am what others say about me.” “I am what I have.” And when that is the case, our life quickly becomes repetitive ups and downs. And before we realize it, most of our energy goes toward trying to stay above the line we consider success, and we call this “surviving.” Where do we look for direction? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We look to Jesus who knew who He was as He lived His life with all of its ups and downs. At His baptism, His Father’s voice was heard: “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” People praised Jesus and people rejected Jesus. People cried out, “Hosanna” and later cried out, “Crucify Him.” No matter what, Jesus held on to this core truth of His identity: “I am My Father’s beloved Son. Not because other people say that I am, but because My Father says so. My Father forever calls Me His beloved Son.” If there is anything that I want you to hear today, it is this: that what was said of Jesus is also said of you: “You are God’s beloved son, you are God’s beloved daughter. This is your core identity. You must hear this truth not only in your head but also in your gut.
You are the beloved child of God before, during and after all the burdens of life. Every time you are tempted to despair, to become bitter or jealous, every time you feel rejected, remind yourself: “No matter what happens to me, I am God’s beloved child.”
The line at the airport was long and the man at the counter was furious. “I demand to be seated right now! I have a first-class ticket!” And he ranted on. The attendant behind the counter was patiently trying to explain the delay, but he would have none of it. Finally the angry man shouted, “Do you know who I am?” Then the sharp-witted attendant picked up the microphone and announced: “Attention, we have a gentleman here who doesn’t know who he is. If anyone can identify him, would you please come to the ticket counter?” We laugh at his arrogance, but here is a man who has his identity all wrapped up in what he does, in what people say about him, and in what he has. When these are threatened, he cries out in pain. For what is left when this material identity is challenged or taken away? What is left – if he only knew it – is that he is still a beloved child of God. No matter what is going on in your life right now, I beg you to remember who you are: you are God’s beloved son, God’s beloved daughter.
And listen to what Jesus is saying to you right now: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We can take Him at His word because He means it. We can count on Him.