If God does not remove our burdens, how do we find rest?

10 December 2008 Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
Isaiah 40, 25-31; Psalm 103; Matthew 11, 28-30

The readings today encourage and assure us in our waiting. When we are waiting for our dreams to be fulfilled, we often find ourselves losing hope or we get tired of hoping. When we are waiting for the grade we need after taking a grueling exam, we sometimes entertain the thought of failing and we find this dread burdensome. For many students whose academics become more and more challenging as they move towards graduation, studies become overwhelming and stressful. To those who are finding life burdensome, the first reading from Isaiah is apt:

“Do you not know or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings.” (Is 40, 28-31)

However, our experiences tell us that God does not actually lift all of our burdens. Our financial difficulties remain. Our heartaches continue to throb. We still feel stressed, tired and tensed. What does Jesus really mean when He said, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”? Scripture scholars say that the “yoke” in the Gospel is a traditional image of the law (Sir 51, 23-27). And Jesus as the teacher and authoritative interpretation of the law promises refreshment and rest in His school of wisdom. In other words, God dwells in Jesus, and if Jesus’ Spirit dwells in us, then God’s wisdom is accessible and can be learned.

But what is refreshing about wisdom in Jesus? First, the teachings of Jesus are reasonable. Jesus respects our humanity. In the healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ hierarchy of values was eschewed. Observance of the Sabbath laws was more important than charity: thus when Jesus healed the man, it was an illustration that good deeds take precedence over these laws. One should not wait another time to help, including to appease physical hunger, as in the incident of Jesus’ disciples plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Second, the teaching of Jesus inspires us to move on, despite the many battles we encounter. It encourages and eggs us not to give up hope, but to continue hoping. His wisdom assures us that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, that there is a direction in our lives even when we feel lost. It stimulates us to develop our talents and our skills and use them to build other people’s lives through service. Finally, Jesus teaches us that we find rest when we share and accompany people who are troubled: how many of us find comfort when a friend wrap their arms around us? That is why Jesus used the image of friendship to describe our new relationship with each other. That is why Jesus taught us the Our Father, to affirm our being children, comforted as a child in the embrace of a parent. Life is less burdensome when shared with someone.

There are difficult moments in our lives when we need comfort. Often, when we are problematic we already know the solution. We just yearn for consolation and encouragement. Jesus taught us that as Christians we do not deny the need of an embrace; neither do we deny others of our capacity to love.

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