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Wednesday – second week – Advent
Readings: Isa 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30.
1/ First Reading: RSV Isaiah 40:25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I. THEME: God loves and cares for all.
Human beings have a tendency to apply what they think to God; for example, parents can only take care of a few children. So, God can’t know, love and care for all people of this world.
Today readings want to show that with God’s mighty power and wisdom, He loves and cares for everybody. In the first reading, the Israelites complained that: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God?” The prophet Isaiah corrected this understanding: If God can directly call out every single star, He can also directly call out everybody. The prophet declared: “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” In the Gospel, Jesus invited everybody: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
1/ Reading I: “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”
1.1/ God knows and cares for every single individual: The prophet Isaiah used God’s creation of the world to show God’s providence of human beings: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing.” Isaiah wanted to say that if God created every star and gave it a determined place in the world, He can also create every person and gives him a place in this world.
It is hard for human beings to fathom God’s unlimited power, wisdom, and providence. Many of us doubted and complained as one of the Israelites said: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God?” But those who understood God’s attributes, they know that they existed because God know them; if God doesn’t know, they won’t be existed. As the prophet Isaiah said: “Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away” (Isa 49:1-2).
1.2/ God isn’t tired, He gives strength for those who are tired: According to human way, the more people labored, the tired people are. We can’t apply this principle to God because He works according to divine way. Since He is all mighty, wise, and foreknowing; He isn’t tired nor exhausted in His creation.
He doesn’t follow human standard in providence. Whoever hope and trust in Him, He gives them incredible strength: “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” But those who rely on their own strength will be tired and exhausted, as the prophet continued, “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
We can clearly see this principle in the lives of the saints. They are fragile persons like us, but they had incredible wisdom and strength because of God’s power and wisdom, such as: St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine de Sienna, St. Martin de Porres.
2/ Gospel: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
2.1/ Jesus knows “tiredness” and “heavy laden” of every person: He issued an invitation to all of us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In our life, everyone has experience as Jesus described today. Sometimes, we felt so tired to the point of breaking down, because even we tried the best as we could, we still had to endure hardship and suffering of life. In those moments, we only wanted to give up everything, or as the poet Nguyen Du said, “to go wherever God wants us to!”
Jesus also passed through this painful experience in his life on earth, and even much more than our experience. He was betrayed by all even though he did many good works for human beings such as revelation, instruction, healing and redemption. He carried the heavy cross to Calgary under a rain of scourging; and three times he felt under his heavy cross. Lastly, he died lonely, painfully and shamefully on the cross to the point that he had to cry out these words from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). A person who had gone through such painful suffering of human life, he certainly knows what we feel and is ready to share our suffering. He invites us to come to him in order to rest and to be nourished.
2.2/ Jesus helps each one to solve his problem.
(1) Christ doesn’t promise his disciples won’t be suffered but he will help them to overcome: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Greek adjective “krêtos” was used to render English translation “easy” has another meaning “fitting.” In Palestine, an ox’s yoke is made by wood, an ox is brought to a carpenter’s shop to measure its neck before making a yoke. After that, an ox is brought again to try that yoke, and it will be adjusted until it could fit nicely around an ox’s neck without causing pain. Some said that since Jesus learned how to make oxen’s yokes with Joseph, his adopted father, when he grew up in Nazareth, he knows how to help people to carry their yokes easily and their burden lightly.
(2) Christ helps people to master suffering by two important lessons in life: “Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
– The gentle lesson: This virtue truly helps people to have inner peace. The gentle isn’t easily irritated by others’ attitudes, words or deeds. Therefore, they won’t feel pain when they were tried, despised or maltreated.
– The humble lesson: This virtue helps people to accept all situations that happen in life. The humble aren’t jealous, fighting to get even, or finding a way to get ahead of others. They know God, themselves and others. Since they’re always looking for the lowly places, and yielding to others higher places, they don’t have to face competition from the people who desire power and fame.
(3) Christ helps people to overcome suffering by his power: “You will find rest for your souls.” God’s words and the Eucharist provide for people the strength to face all hardships and sufferings that happen in life.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to know that our relationship with God is the individual relationship; and He wants us to return with our love.
– God knows us more than we know ourselves. We should not be afraid to face God because He knows all and wants to help us to solve our problems.
– Many times, we felt lonely, tired and hopeless because we wanted to fight alone; but if we know how to fight with God’s help, everything will be easy and light. God helps us to overcome our burden by His grace and strength.