OVERCOME WEARINESS WITH CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISA 40:25-31; Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10; MT 11:28-30 ]
“Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble.” If the young who have so much energy in them can grow tired and weary, what more for older people who have responsibilities in life, either for the family, at work or in organizations that they lead. Young people tend to be more carefree and live for themselves. They tend to take life easy as they are still dependent on their parents. But as they grow older, they learn not just to take care of themselves but of others as they assume greater responsibilities in life. Soon, they will come to know that life is not just about living for oneself but to live for others, their loved ones, family, friends, society, church and nation.
When we are given new responsibilities, initially, we work with much passion and excitement. We are enthusiastic and creative. Newly wedded couples are happy, loving and romantic. A newly ordained priest wakes up to each new day with much zeal and looks forward to new adventures and how to bring the love of Christ and the Good News to others. So too is a new worker or a new boss in a company. But the fact of life is that we get used to our work, position and even the people around us. Very soon, we get tired of our work, privileges, honors and even the people we work and live with. We enter into the drudgery of life. Work and relationship become a routine without excitement and joy. Marriage becomes stale and boring. Work becomes a chore to get over with as soon as possible. Children whom we welcome so happily into our homes become a burden rather than a bundle of joy.
What is the cause of weariness? The real weariness is not so much physical weariness. For physical fatigue, all we need is to have a good rest. Sleep and rest will restore the physical energy. Physical rest will come naturally because we are physically drained. We will sleep well knowing that we have done a good day’s job. We sleep peacefully with a clear conscience, entrusting all that we could not complete to the Lord to take care. Those who have worked hard and have done their best should be able to sleep in peace without much disturbance. They would not have insomnia and nightmares because their hearts and minds are at peace. Whoever has done good and live a life of integrity sleeps soundly in the Lord. Only a man with a clear conscience can sleep and rest in peace.
So when Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”, He was referring not to those who were physically tired but those suffering from spiritual emptiness and emotional disillusionment. The weariness that sleep cannot resolve is the exhaustion that comes from sin, selfishness and the law. Many of us are burdened by the fact that we have not kept the laws. Observing the laws of God are not always easy. Many of us live in guilt and fear because we have failed to keep the laws. Then there are those burdened by sins and their past. They live in regret and cannot forgive themselves or those who have hurt them. Because of their pride and ego, they are not humble to learn and grow.
Others are overburdened because of insecurity and ambition. They need to prove themselves, get attention from others, be praised and honored. So they are filled with envy and jealousy. In their desire for success, they work themselves to death and lose the perspective of life. They even neglect their family and friends and God, simply because they want to prove to others that they are successful in their career. Yet, even when they arrive, which is an impossible goal, they remain dissatisfied. When our lives are filled with anxiety, fear, difficult relationships, and competition with our opponents, creating many enemies along the way, we become weary.
Instead of realizing that it is our sins of pride, selfishness and ambition that are causing us unhappiness and anxiety and failed relationships, we blame God and others. That was the case of the Israelites in exile. They felt that God had abandoned them and no longer care for them. In their exile, they began to doubt the love and power of God. They forgot that it was their sins that caused them to suffer. The Lord reprimanded them saying, “How can you say, Jacob, how can you insist, Israel, ‘My destiny is hidden from the Lord, my rights are ignored by my God’? Did you not know? Had you not heard?”
The truth is that our God is all-powerful and yet all merciful. “To whom could you liken me and who could be my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look. Who made these stars if not he who drills them like an army, calling each one by name? So mighty is his power, so great his strength, that not one fails to answer.” God is our creator and He is all omnipotent and omniscient. God is in control over His creation and His divine providence will see us through. We should not doubt His love and His rule over creation. “The Lord is an everlasting God; he created the boundaries of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming.” He is also all merciful and compassionate when we sin against Him. The psalmist’s experience was such when he prayed, “It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”
What needs to change is not God’s providence and plan for us, but we need to change our attitudes towards life. Jesus shows us how to find renewed strength when we become weary and tired. He invites us to come to Him. Indeed, as the prophet assures us, “those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.” How is this possible? How can we find new enthusiasm in life, in our relationships, in our marriage, in our work and in our ministry? Jesus said, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
To shoulder the yoke of Jesus and learn from Him is to look at life from His perspective. The yoke that we are asked to carry is the yoke of Jesus. If Jesus asks us to carry the yoke with Him, it is because He wants us to carry the cross the way He carried it, not with resentment or anger but with loving obedience and self-sacrifice for the good of others, the glory of God and one’s personal growth in holiness. In life, the pain of suffering is not so much the physical suffering itself but the way we carry that suffering. When it is carried in love and for love, even that suffering becomes a great joy. When we suffer for the sake of our loved ones, when we deprive ourselves of something so that others can enjoy, we feel happy. So we do not mind suffering if we suffer for a greater good and for our loved ones. That was the way Jesus suffered. He did not carry the cross reluctantly but He chose to do it for us. He came to give us life abundantly by dying for us.
Anything that is done for love will not dissipate us. Instead, it will only empower us to do more. When sacrifices are done for the sake of love, there is no competition, no anxiety and no expectations. Only when we work for ourselves, do we find tensions. Indeed, when one has no ambition except to do good and leave the rest to God, a person can work with all his heart and yet not worry too much about the result. As St Teresa of Kolkata reminds us, we are called to be faithful, not successful. Hence, Jesus said, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Only those who are ambitious, crave for power, recognition and material gains are restless.
Finally, it must be noted that the yoke of an animal is made in such a way that it fits the animal. Otherwise, it would be uncomfortable and injure the animal. In the same way too, we all have our crosses and responsibilities in life. But we must realize that God never gives us a cross beyond what we can carry. Every cross fits us just rightly. We too must accept whatever crosses that come our way. There is a reason for everything. Instead of denying or running away, we must, like Jesus, carry our cross and follow after Him. So let us not complain about our crosses. If we were to take other crosses, they will not fit us and we will suffer even much more. God does not tempt or try us beyond our strength.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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