I will give you rest

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. (Photo courtesy: The Irrawaddy)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings and Blessing in the name of the living, loving and liberating name of Jesus. Today’s Gospel shows the motherly love of Jesus towards you and me. In his infinite maternal compassion to the wounded humanity, Jesus says these soothing words:

“Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

After four months of facing so many burdens, we look towards the lamb of God to bear our burdens today. May your prayers come true.

This year, the human family is forced to bear the burden of a pandemic that has crucified more than 2 million people with the uncertainty of this virus. Half a million people have perished and buried. Millions of hearts are heavy and burdened. Churches remain closed, increasing uncertainty and burdening our souls.

The tide of racism roars in the west. Discrimination has brought huge burden to the vulnerable people. Like animals they are killed in the streets. Heavy burden among people. Two days ago in Hpa-Kang over one hundred were buried in the mud.

To the world wounded and confused and seeking relief the voice goes out to say: “Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest!”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Hong Kong, one of the great nations on earth is being wounded by Chinese aggression. The coercive policies of despotic Chinese government hangs around the necks of graceful Hong Kong people.   Hundreds are arrested, their freedom  taken away by a heartless totalitarian regime, which had no respect for human dignity. To those brothers and sisters of Hong Kong, Christ reaches out with the   consoling words.

“Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Near at home, COVID is mercifully sparing our poor people but has imposed smothering economic burden. War is a burden. Despite the affliction of poverty for nearly 60 percent of our people, COVID has embezzled their daily bread. Lock downs have come. But there is no lockdown to stomachs of our children.

In the Rakhine state, war is a burden. More than 120,000 are displaced by new conflicts in the land. Think of millions of our country men and women thrown out from the nearby countries, not accepted freely back and undergoing dense quarantine, the loneliness and abandonment is a burden. For this wounded and broken nation Jesus from the Cross reaches out with the soothing words

“Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart

Churches face a great challenge. The faithful have no recourse to sacraments, no joy of communal celebration of Eucharist. Faith for some has become a challenge in this COVID darkness. Many  faithful, priests and religious have perished in the course of their generous service to the sick and dying.

COVID has brought darkness at noon time, piercing the soul of its spiritual nourishment. Many faithful  devoid of regular spiritual support and gathering are raising the same agonized cry of Jesus from the Cross

“Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me.”

Amidst these groans of despair and depression, the voice of Jesus cries out to every broken soul:

“Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”

Families face weariness, the burden of surviving. Millions have lost their livelihood. Children have lost their opportunities for education. Youth remain unemployed. Those families to whom starvation is a daily challenge and  basic human dignity has become an uphill task Jesus words goes forth as a healing palm

“Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”

He says further “Come to me,” “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (see 1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (see Proverbs 3:5), “and you will find rest for your souls.”

How does Jesus takes away our weariness ?

  • Jesus overcomes our weariness by showing us the Father.
  • We are weary with too much to do — but Jesus shows us that the Father will give us the grace to do whatever He calls us to do. (2Cor 9:8).
  • We face tough decisions — but Jesus shows us that the Father will give us all the wisdom we need for every decision we face (James 1;5).
  • We are exhausted by setbacks — but Jesus shows us the Father’s all-satisfying presence (Psalm 63:5-6) — and that He has had a wise and loving purpose for every setback (Jer 29:11).
  • What do Jesus words tell us again? How do we really achieve peace. Jesus guides us:

“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.”

Take my Yoke: Yoke is never light. Yoke is resting on the beast of the burden. Pharisees talked about carrying the ‘Yoke of the Torah,’ the burden of the Jewish Law with its thousands of petty rules. To them this was a great privilege, though to the ordinary person it was a great burden which impinged on their daily lives.

But Jesus reinterprets yoke. The cross was the yoke on which he took away our sins. The cross was the yoke of humility. His yoke was the yoke of love. His Yoke of Torah was the yoke of Love. Just love commandment, taking away the more than 600 Old Testament laws into just two laws: Love God, Love one another.

This is how Jesus guides us into ‘rest’:  through being humble  and meek.  

These two virtues  take away two of our  toxic worldly anxieties: owning power, owning wealth. It brings so much mental agony. Jesus address this malice: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Mathew 6: 25-26)

Humility and meekness  are the antidote to  mental suffering. Blessed are the meek, says Jesus, for they will inherit the Kingdom of God. By emptying oneself in the service of others, as indicated by the letter to the Philippians, of Jesus kenosis — self emptying, Jesus showed the way to be at “rest’.    Humble and people believe in God and rest assured their life is in the hands of God. Anxieties and neurosis disappear from the people.

This is the lesson we draw from the first reading of today: the prophet Zechariah says “Your King shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass! Yes Jesus the King of Kings would  eventually come on an ass showing “those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

By trusting God, all our burdens are brought down. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God has good plans for your life, and you can rest knowing that no matter what your life is like now, if you trust God, it will get better.

Mental burdens are often brought by ourselves. The heavy yoke of self-deception is brought on ourselves. By changing our perspectives we can lessen our mental burden. Our  constant urge to dominate others, find solace in power and prosperity  has led humanity into dark tunnel of despair. The law of flesh lives and destroys us. 

In the second  reading from the Letter to Romans, St Paul indicates  that  the arrogance of flesh will give us more weariness, even death. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Today’s  Gospel presents the healing words of Jesus.  COVID seems to strengthen itself in many parts of the world. Though its intensity is less in Myanmar it has brought huge emotional and financial  anxieties to millions. Continued closure of churches brings spiritual anxieties to thousands. These are hard times.

But Jesus is the same: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Often we are like the disciples who found Jesus sleeping during the storm in the sea, when the boat was tossed around. But Jesus showed to them, he was in command. Today  as the world passes through hard times, no man can find any solution. Jesus is our Good Samaritan. His  words are the healing palm. He calls us to come and rest in his Grace and Providence. He is calling us to knock at his door and it will be opened. He is calling us to seek him in the moments of anxieties, he will soothe our mind. 

May the words of Jesus bring healing this planet, may his presence bring solace to families in distress, may his Grace detraumatize people who are afflicted with this deadly disease. His meekness and gentleness by which he took the yoke of all our sins on the Cross be once again  manifested through his healing power. God is in charge and let us rest in peace. 

Stay Blessed  in the coming days.

Homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo SDB.,  Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, on July 5, 2020