‘Come to me, all you who labour and I will give you rest’
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year A
Jesus’ words in this reading show that the Messiah comes not to dominate and control but humbly to offer new life and strength. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
25 At that time Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26 Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. 27 Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
Other readings: Zechariah 9:9-10 Psalm 144 (145) Romans 8:9,11-13
Our reading today is exclusively made up of the words of Jesus. The initial two verses are addressed to the Father, while in the remainder of the reading Jesus addresses his listeners. Both parts of the reading contain words of great beauty and great intimacy.
Jesus begins by praising the Father for allowing ‘these things’ to be known by those who, like children expectant of good things from loving parents, open their hearts and minds. In the previous passage in Matthew’s gospel Jesus had condemned the refusal to repent of the lakeside towns. Despite the evidence of the mighty deeds and powerful preaching of Jesus their response was lukewarm.
Jesus rejoices in those whose hearts are open to receive and to learn. His next statement makes clear that he is the way to the Father. It is through knowing him that we come to know the Father. It is the Son alone who fully knows the Father and it is through the Son that those who are ready to receive and learn come to know the reality of God. These words may well remind us of some of the statements in John’s gospel. ‘It is the only Son, who is nearest the Father’s heart, who has made God known.’ (John 1:18)
No-one can really listen to the final words of Jesus without being moved at the compassion of God. As the reading from the prophet Zechariah illustrates, the Messiah comes not to dominate and control but humbly to offer new life and strength.
We continue to read from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Paul speaks of the Spirit who gives us life. The same Spirit who was revealed in power at the resurrection of Jesus gives new life to us in baptism. We are free to accept and live that new life. We are free to receive the good news like ‘mere children’ or to reject it and thereby lose the greatest gift.
Do I allow the life of God, Father, Son and Spirit, into my mind and heart?
Do I welcome and trust in the loving care of Jesus?
We pray for those who are overburdened with the problems of life.
We pray for the courage to take up the yoke of Christ and follow him.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy