AD SENSE

14th Sunday A: Come to Me all who are Burdened

The Gospel of service

One of the “saints” of the Zen religion is a priest named Tetsugen, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith into Japanese.
Many years ago the priest sought to print several thousand copies of the books in order to make the texts of Japan’s religion available to everyone.  He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing.  Rich and poor alike donated to the project.  The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies.

After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter.  The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless.
Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again.  It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book.  But an epidemic spread across the country.  Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care the sick, the suffering and dying.
A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized.
The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto.  The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book – the first two are invisible but far superior to the third.

Jesus invites us to embrace the joyful sense of fulfillment that can only be realized by “learning” from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his ‘yoke’ of humble, joyful service to one another as we journey together to the dwelling place of God.  Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the generosity and compassion we extend to others.  In our work for justice, in our dedication to reconciliation, in our welcome to all approach our tables, we make the word of God of a living reality in our own time and place.  

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In today’s first reading Zachariah the last of the minor prophets, describes the coming of the Messiah and his nature as a triumphant and victorious king and yet humble and lowly in nature. In order to belong to the Messiah promised and sent for us we have to fulfill a very important condition: We have to imbibe the spirit of the Messiah without which we cannot belong to him. He gives up all authority and power, he does not control, He walks the way of justice and peace for all. Have we the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in us? Do we live life according to the Spirit of Jesus?

What goes around comes around
When I was working as a disc jockey in Columbus Ohio, I used to go to the University Hospital or Grant Hospital on my way home. I would walk down the different corridors and just enter different people’s rooms and read scripture to them or talk to them. It was a way of forgetting my own problems and being thankful to God for my health. I was very controversial on radio. I had offended someone in an editorial that I had done and the person I exposed literally took a contract out on me. One night I was coming home at about two o’clock in the morning. I had just finished working at the night club where I was emcee. As I began to open my door, a man came out from behind the side of my house and said, “Are you Les Brown?” I said, “Yes, sir.” he said. “I need to talk to you. I was sent here to carry a contract on you.” “Me? Why?” I asked. He said, “Well, there’s a promoter that’s very upset about the money you cost him when you said that the group that was coming to town was not the real group.” “Are you going to do something to me?” I asked. He said, “No.” I was glad. He continued, “My mother was in Grant Hospital and she wrote about how you came in one day and talked to her and read Scripture to her. She was so impressed that this morning disc jockey, who didn’t know her, came in and did that. She wrote to me when I was in the Ohio penitentiary. I was impressed with that and I always wanted to meet you. When I heard the word out on the street that somebody wants to knock you off” he said, “I accepted the contract and then told them to leave you alone.”
Les Brown in ‘A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the soul’

This Sunday’s gospel begins on a note of thanksgiving with Jesus acknowledging the Father for hiding things from the wise and the clever and revealing them to infants, to those who stand in humility before God. When the people returned from the Babylonian captivity, the Davidic dynasty no longer ruled in Jerusalem. In a shift it was thought that the ideal king would come in the indefinite future when the Davidic throne would be restored. This gave rise to the idea of the emergence of the Messianic king. Yet, since there was no visible dynasty to produce this figure, other Jewish expectations emerged. Some Jews expected salvation through an ideal priest or prophet like Moses or by God himself without human assistance. It was amidst these expectations that Jesus was born to poor parents in Jerusalem. Jesus himself did not openly claim to be the Messiah. He appeared to be the humble Messiah that Zechariah prophesied a few centuries before the birth of Jesus. Jesus chose the title ‘Son of Man’ while speaking of his life and mission. Jesus is the messiah who lived among suffering humanity, a friend of the out-castes of society, who sought table fellowship with sinners and tax collectors. It is in this context that his invitation to us in today’s gospel becomes intelligible. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Centuries ago Jesus summoned his apostles and disciples and sent them two by two to communicate God’s love, to bind up wounds and to be peace-makers in a troubled world. Jesus knew they would make mistakes; nevertheless he involved them in his mission and gave them his authority. Today, all the baptized understand their call to Jesus’s mission and ministry to others. Whatever our position in society, we are invited to set out with full hearts to build our Church, and help it grow. Armed with faith and our personal experience of Jesus, we can all proclaim with our lives the reign of God. Through simple acts of caring, we have the ability to change the world. By providing a listening ear to the sick or lonely, or companionship to the young or elderly, we are ministers. When we are helpful, loyal and constant without seeking personal glory, we respond to the needs around us and build up the body of Christ. As we are called and respond, so do we also call others to do the same. Let us celebrate this gift and task with thanksgiving. We can make this world better with our lives, let us begin.


Where to look for God’s image?


You may have heard the ancient tale of God’s original problem: where to conceal his most precious possession, his own image. He called three wise counselors to listen to their suggestions. The first advised God to put his image on the top of the highest mountain on earth where it would be safe forever; God however declined the suggestion. The second wise man proposed that God put his image in the depth of the deepest sea; but God saw submarines in his mind’s eye and said no. The third suggested that God hide his image on the far side of the moon; but God smiled to himself and said even there man could reach it. Then God had his original idea: “I know where to conceal my image,” he said. “I will put it where people would never think of looking; I will put it into their hearts. There it will never be discovered.” And the three wise men nodded in agreement; they knew that God was right, indeed right.
Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Heart’


Doing good


There was a queue of people outside the gates of heaven. Each person was asked the question: 'Why do you think you should be admitted?' The first person in the queue, a very religious man, said, 'I studied the Bible every day.' 'Very good,' said the Lord. 'However, we'll have to carry out an investigation to see why you studied the Bible. So please step aside for a moment!' The second was a very pious woman who said, 'Lord, I said my prayers every day without fail.' 'Very good,' the Lord answered. 'However, we'll have to see if your motives were pure, so step aside for a moment.' Then an innkeeper approached. He just said, 'Lord on earth I wasn't a very religious man, but my door was always open to the homeless, and I never refused food to anyone who was hungry.' 'Very good,' said the Lord. 'In your case no investigation is needed, go right in.' -It has been said that if you do a good deed, but have an ulterior motive, it would be better not to do it at all. The only exception is charity. Even though it isn't as good as doing it with a pure motive, it is still a good deed, and benefits the other person, no matter what your motive.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'


 Keeper of the flame


Sometime ago the Los Angeles Times carried a moving story by reporter Dave Smith. It was about a modern Christian who put God first in his life, other people second, and himself third. His name is Charlie DeLeo. After returning from Vietnam, he got a job as maintenance man at the Statue of Liberty. Charlie told the reporter that part of his job is to take care of the torch in the statue's hand and the crown on the statue's head. He has to make sure that the sodium vapour lights are always working and that the 200 glass windows in the torch and the crown are always clean. Pointing to the torch, Charlie said proudly, "That's my chapel. I dedicated it to the Lord, and I go up there and meditate on my breaks." But Charlie does other things for the Lord, as well. He received a commendation from the Red Cross after donating his 65th pint of blood. And since hearing of the work of Mother Teresa in India, he has given over $12,000 to her and to people like her. Charlie told the Los Angeles Times reporter: "I don't socialize much; don't have enough money to get married. I don't keep any of my money. After I got my job, I sponsored six orphans through those children's organizations." Charlie ended by telling the reporter that he calls himself the "Keeper of the Flame" of the Statue of Liberty. Later a park guide told the reporter: "Everybody knows Charlie is special. When he first gave himself that title, people smiled. But we all take it seriously now. To us, he's exactly what he says: 'Keeper of the Flame."
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'


 Pay nothing? You get nothing!


A man came to buy a saddle for his horse. He saw a fine piece and asked, "How much?" "Five hundred rupees", the shop owner replied. "But that is too much," the man replied. "As it is the saddle is overly decorated. Remove some of the decoration and cut down the price." "All right" the shop owner said and took away some of the decoration. "Now it will be Rs. 400." "Rs. 400? Even that is too much. There is still some decoration you can remove." And so it went on till the price was brought down to Rs. 250. Even so the customer found the price too much. At last the shop owner said, "All right, sir. The saddle will cost you nothing." The buyer asked excitedly, "Nothing? Wonderful! What do I get? The shop owner told him. "Nothing." - We get according to our willingness to pay. This holds good in the spiritual realm too.
G. Francis Xavier in 'Inspiring Stories'

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1: “Lord, I’ve done the best I can.” During the days of the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII used to submit all his anxieties to God with this prayer every night: “Lord, Jesus, I’m going to bedIt’s your ChurchTake care of it!” American President Dwight David Eisenhower knew about that inner rest derived from submitting one’s daily life to God. He had that rest even while he was the leader of armed forces in World War II. His every decision during that awful conflict had monumental consequences. How did he deal with the pressure? Ike shared with his former pastor, Dean Miller that he didn’t try to carry his burden alone. Some nights when the strain became too great, Eisenhower would simply pray, “Lord, with your grace I’ve done the best I can. You take over until morning.” And he understood very well Jesus’ advice in today’s Gospel: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11 28). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

2: Disturbing statistics on stress: A few years ago, Comprehensive Care Corporation of Tampa, Florida published a booklet about stress in our modern world. The facts are disturbing. (1) One out of four (that’s 25% of Americans) suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, loneliness and other painful symptoms which are attributed mainly to stress. (2) Four out of five adult family members see a need for less stress in their daily lives. (3) Approximately half of all diseases can be linked to stress-related origins, including ulcers, colitis, bronchial asthma, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. (4) Unmanaged stress is a leading factor in homicides, suicides, child-abuse, spouse-abuse, and other aggravated assaults. (5) The problem of stress is taking a tremendous toll economically, also. Americans are now spending $64.9 billion a year trying to deal with the issue of stress. That is why Jesus shared the “Good News” with us a long time ago when He said: “Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

3: “Why me?” When we are tested with trials and overburdened with pain and suffering, we ask God, “Why me?” And we fail to count the innumerable blessings that we have received. Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. was an American professional tennis player. He is considered the best African- American male tennis player of all time. He won three Grand Slam titles. Ashe was the first black player selected to the Unites States David Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. Arthur Ashe was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood received during a heart surgery in 1983. From the world over, he received letters from his fans. One of them conveyed: “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?”. To this Arthur Ashe replied: “The world over—50 million children start learning tennis. 5 million of them learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach the Wimbledon, 4 to semi-finals, 2 to finals. When I was the one holding the cup, I never asked God ‘Why me?’ And today in pain, I should not be asking GOD, ‘Why me?’”http://boardofwisdom.com/togo/Quotes/ShowQuote?msgid=181446#.WVkgNMFK3cs Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

4.  Rest and peace: Doctor: Your husband needs rest and peace. Here are some sleeping pills. Wife: When must I give them to him? Doctor: They are for you…

5. The pills for mental rest, which make you restless: George came home from the psychiatrist looking very worried. “What’s the problem?” his wife asked. “The doctor told me I could have no worry and perfect peace of mind if I take a pill every day for the rest of my life,” he explained. “So what? Lots of people have to take a pill every day their whole lives,” she replied. “I know,” said George, “but the doctor gave me only four pills!”

6. In search of rest: A man had been driving all night and by morning was still far from his destination. He decided to stop at the next city he came to and park somewhere quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. As luck would have it, the quiet place he chose happened to be on one of the city’s major jogging routes. No sooner had he settled back to snooze when there came a knocking on his window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in place. “Excuse me, sir,” the jogger said, “do you have the time?” The man looked at the car clock and answered, “8:15”. The jogger said thanks and left. The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window and another jogger. “Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?” “8:25!” The jogger said thanks and left. Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one disturbed him. To avoid the problem, he got out a pen and paper and put a sign in his window saying, “I do not know the time!” Once again, he settled back to sleep. He was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window. “Sir, sir? It’s 8:45!”

28 Additional anecdotes:

1) “The tired part of me is inside and out of reach”: In 1863, the Civil War was raging, and the end was far from sight. Abraham Lincoln was out for a ride with his friend and aide Noah Brooks. Brooks, noticing the president’s obvious fatigue, suggested that he take a brief rest when they got back to the White House. “A rest,” Lincoln replied, “I don’t know about a rest. I suppose it’s good for the body, but the tired part of me is inside and out of reach.” Lincoln was acknowledging a very important truth. There are many sources of fatigue. Physical fatigue may be the most benign. There is fatigue that comes from stress, fatigue that comes from worry, fatigue that comes not only from worrying about the future but also worrying about the past, and fatigue that comes from trying to be something we are not. What we really need is not time off nor time away. Rather, what we need is time that is filled with meaning and purpose – time that is saturated with the grace of God. What we need, according to this wonderful Gospel paradox, is a different burden, Christ’s, and a new yoke, His.

2) Overpowering or Empowering Presence: “Most great personalities have a dominating and overpowering influence on people they come in contact with. Some prefer to keep their distance from the common folk who admire them. In his biography of George Washington, Richard Brookhiser says: “George Washington is with us every day, on our dollar bills and on our quarters. He looks down on us from Mount Rushmore. In the national capital that bears his name he has the most prominent memorial. More schools, streets and cities bear his name than that of any other American, and historians rank him among the greatest Presidents America has had. However, the omnipresence of Washington does not translate into familiarity. He is in our textbooks and in our wallets, but not in our hearts. The fault is partly Washington’s, since he tended to distance himself from the people.” -But Jesus let the people, especially the simple ones, come to him! (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho

3) “If I keep my bow always stretched, it will break.” Once, St. Anthony the hermit was relaxing with his disciples outside his hut when a hunter came by. The hunter was surprised and mildly shocked to see the saint taking it easy.   This was not his idea of what a monk should be doing, and he rebuked the saint.  But Anthony said, “Bend your bow and shoot an arrow.”  The hunter did so. “Bend it again and shoot another,” said Anthony.  The hunter did so– again and again.  At last the hunter said, “Father Anthony, if I keep my bow always stretched, it will break.” “So, it is with a monk,” replied Anthony. “If we push ourselves beyond measure, we will break; it is right from time to time to relax our efforts.” Jesus gives us the same message in today’s Gospel.

4) “I’m afraid they’re all wondering where I went.” An elderly woman at the nursing home received a visit from one of her fellow Church members. “How are you feeling?” the visitor asked. “Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick!” “What are you worried about, dear?” her friend asked. “You look like you’re in good health. They are taking care of you, aren’t they?” “Yes, they are taking very good care of me.” “Are you in any pain?” she asked. “No, I have never had a pain in my life.” “Well, what are you worried about?” her friend asked again. The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her major worry. “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to Heaven,” she said. “I’m afraid they’re all wondering where I went.” (bounce-jokeseveryday-1807004@ripple.dundee.net )

5) Worriers or warriors? Author Stephanie Stokes Oliver in her book, Daily Cornbread, asks whether we are worriers or warriors. Chronic worriers let their anxiety and fear interfere with living their life to the fullest. They manifest their worry in physical symptoms like headaches and knotted muscles. Worriers seem unable to take control of their situation and make a positive change for themselves. Warriors, on the other hand, find healthy ways to deal with their fears. They don’t automatically shut down and go into crisis mode. They trust that God will sustain them. Warriors take positive action to change a negative situation. (Stephanie Stokes Oliver, New York: Doubleday, 1999). Astronaut Jim Lovell is a warrior. In a news conference, he was asked about Apollo 13. He was in command of that spacecraft when it experienced an explosion on its way to the moon. With their oxygen almost gone, their electrical system out, their spaceship plunging toward lunar orbit, it appeared Lovell and his crew would be marooned hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth. Lovell was asked, “Were you worried?” Such as obvious question drew snickers. But then Lovell gave a surprising answer. “No, not really.” he said. “You see, worry is a useless emotion. I was too busy fixing the problem to worry about it. As long as I had one card left to play, I played it.” [Second Thoughts–One Hundred Upbeat Messages for Beat-up Americans by Mort Crim (Health Communication, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997), p. 154]. Jim Lovell is a warrior. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

6) “My yokes fit well.” In Jesus’ time, oxen were linked together by means of a wooden yoke across their necks. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible teaches this about yokes: “The carpenter probably made both yokes and plows. Joseph and Jesus undoubtedly had experience in making yokes.” William Barclay makes the following statement in his commentary on Matthew: “There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country men came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may well have been: “My yokes fit well.” It may well be that Jesus is here using a picture from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth where he had worked throughout the silent years.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

7) WORK, PLAY, LOVE and WORSHIP: The Mayo Clinic announced a sure cure for getting rid of that tired feeling. Tests revealed that people are chronically tired because they live unbalanced lives. And so they took Dr. Richard Clark Cabot’s famous formula for life – WORK, PLAY, LOVE and WORSHIP. These are the ultimates of life that must be held in proper balance – work, play, love and worship. The Mayo Clinic made them a symbol, four arms of equal length. They said that whenever one or more of those arms becomes a stub, then the result in unhappiness, and unhappiness is usually the forerunner of fatigue. Thus, a businessman’s arm may be long on work but short on play and worship. A debutante’s arm may be long on play and short on work. A spinster may be long on work and worship and short on play and love. The old saying that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” is psychologically sound. And so, “all work and no worship” leads to chronic fatigue. It’s a simple, psychological and physical fact.

8) Twenty-four hours’ work: Grandpa clocked in long hours on the railroad or in the mines, but when he came home there were no faxes waiting for him to answer, no cellular phones or e-mail to interrupt his after-dinner smoke. Home was home, not a pit-stop for data-gathering before heading back to the office. Today, there is no downtime, no escape from other people. We have cell phones in the car and beepers in our pockets. We carry them to the Church, to the beach, and to the bathroom. Says Dr. Mark Moskowitz of the Boston Medical Center:   ”A lot of people are working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even when they’re not technically at work. It’s a guaranteed formula for breakdown.” Today’s Gospel message is for them. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

9) Shirt of a happy man: A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy…but he did not possess a shirt. (Pastor’s Professional Research Service, “Happiness”). That is why Oscar Wilde wrote, “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” He was trying to warn us no matter how hard we work at being successful, success will not satisfy us. By the time we get there, having sacrificed so much on the altar of being successful, we will realize that success was not what we wanted.

10) Pacifier for stress: A young mother was describing a terrible day she had experienced. The washing machine broke down, the telephone kept ringing, her head ached, and the mail carrier brought a bill she had no money to pay. Almost to the breaking point, she lifted her one-year-old into his highchair, leaned her head against the tray, and began to cry. Without a word, her son took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it in hers. It goes with the pressures of modern life. Some of us are stressed out, and we are tired. Today’s Gospel prescribes a way out for stress. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

11) “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Soren Kierkegaard (pronounced Kerkegor) was a Danish philosopher who suffered bouts of extreme melancholy, undoubtedly due to a difficult upbringing. One day he wrote in his Journal, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” What a liberating thought: “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Not what others exp ect me to be. Not some unrealistic image I have of myself. No, with God’s help I shall become who I really am. No more stressful pretenses. No more misguided strivings. I will relax and be me. When we feel accepted by Christ, then for the first time in our life we become free. When we are yoked to Jesus, we no longer have to prove to the world that we belong.

12) “A Work-Weary World?” Michael Boyer wrote an article for National Geographic entitled, “A Work-Weary World?” that may give us a little comfort. He notes that Americans are famous for their work ethic. However, according to a study by the International Labor Organization we are no longer the world leaders in hours worked per year. South Korea’s booming economy necessitates a six-day work-week. In the past few years, South Koreans have averaged 2,390 hours of work per year, as compared to the 1,792 hours of work per year in the U.S. Workers in Japan, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand also worked more hours than U.S. workers. Swedish workers clocked the fewest work hours in an average year, only about 1,337. (2) Now before you pack your bags for Sweden, remember those cold, dark winters. Also, you don’t speak the language. Some of you, I know, are weary from work.

13) “I have lots more remedies!” Have you heard about the farmer who went to a government bureaucrat specializing in animal health? The farmer sought help from the “expert” because ten of his chickens had suddenly died. The government expert instructed the farmer to give aspirin to all the surviving chickens. Two days later, however, the farmer returned. Twenty more chickens had died. What should he do now? The expert said quickly: “Give all the rest castor oil.” Two days later, the farmer returned a third time and reported 30 more dead chickens. The government expert now strongly recommended penicillin. Two days later a sad farmer showed up. All the rest of his chickens had now died. They were all gone. “What a shame,” said the expert, “I have lots more remedies!” The world offers many so-called remedies to the problem of stress: – Get away – Run away – Fly away – Take a pill to ease your nerves – Take a drink to drown your sorrows – Take a shot to kill the pain – Get drunk, take drugs, sleep a lot. But the truth is most of them don’t work. Jesus prescribes just one remedy for stress: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14)” Veni, vidi, dormivi!”: National Public Radio had a story about a club that has been formed at a high school in Greenwich, Connecticut. The club is called the Power Nap Club! A student group goes to a room at the end of the school day where they turn off the lights, put their heads on their desks, plug in a tape of quiet classical music, and take what they call a “power nap” for about a half hour. “Their club tee‑shirts are decorated with a cardinal (the school mascot), wearing a little nightcap on his head. Inscribed on the tee‑shirt is a new version of an old Latin motto, “Veni, vidi, dormivi: I came, I saw, I slept!” The club was formed not because these are lazy high school students, but exactly the reverse. These kids are going to school all day, participating in sports, volunteering in the community, going to Church or mosque or synagogue, and holding down part‑time jobs. They’re exhausted. And they’ve learned that just a little nap makes all the difference in the world” (Carlton Young). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to us and to them, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

15) The Jewish parable on the burden of Mosaic Law: “There was a poor widow who had two daughters and who owned a field. When she began to plough, Moses said to her through his Law, ‘You must not plough with an ox and an ass together.’ When she began to sow, the Law said, ‘You must not sow your field with mingled seed.’ When she began to reap and to make stacks of corn, it said, ‘When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it’ (Deut.24:19), and ‘You shall not reap your field to its very border’ (Lev.19:9). When she began to thresh, the law said, ‘Give me the heave-offering, and the first and second tithe.’ She accepted the ordinance and gave them all to God.
“What did the poor woman then do? She sold her field, and bought two sheep, to clothe herself from their fleece, and to have profit from their young. When they bore their young, Aaron the priest (who represented the Law) said, ‘Give me the first-born.’ So she accepted the decision, and gave them to him. When the shearing time came, Aaron said again, ‘Give me the first of the fleece of the sheep’ (Deut.18:4). Then she thought: ‘I cannot stand up against this man. I will slaughter the sheep and eat them.’ Then Aaron said, ‘Give me the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach’(Deut.18:3). The woman said, ‘Even when I have killed them, I am not safe. Behold they shall be devoted.’   Aaron said, ‘In that case they belong entirely to me’ (Num.18:14). He took them and went away and left her weeping with her two daughters.” — The story is a parable of the continuous demands that the Law made upon men in every   activity of life. These demands were indeed a burden. Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon our shoulders. (Taken from William Barclay). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

16) “Do you have any idea who I am?” The Los Angeles Times published the story of a commercial airline flight cancellation which resulted in a long line of travelers trying to get bookings on another flight. One man in the line grew increasingly impatient with the slow-moving line.  At last, he pushed his way to the front and angrily demanded a first-class ticket on the next available flight. “I’m sorry,” said the ticket agent, “First I’ll have to take care of the people who were ahead of you in the line.” The irate man then pounded his fist on the ticket counter, saying, “Do you have any idea who I am?” Whereupon, the ticket agent picked up the public address microphone and said, “Attention, please! There is a gentleman at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. If there is anyone in the airport who can identify him, please come to the counter.” Hearing this, the man retreated, and the people waiting in line burst into applause. — We are like this man.  We have forgotten how to wait patiently. In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to learn his meekness and humility.
17) The buzzard, the bat and the bumblebee: If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner.  The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet.  Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top. The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.  Then, at once, it takes off like a flash. A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out.  It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom…  It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself. — In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee.  We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up! That’s the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem!  Just look up. Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, But Faith looks up! Listen to Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

18) They sent two limousines to the airport to receive the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner: Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian stock who had cared for the poor and sick in India for more than 30 years, was named the winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee said that it had decided to honor her as much for her organizing and managerial skills as for her compassion and dedication to the poor. Mother Teresa founded her order, the Society of the Missionaries of Charity, in Calcutta’s slums in 1948 when she opened her first school with special permission from Rome to live outside a convent. Her work among the poor of Calcutta, where her society’s workers collect the dying and destitute from the streets, has spread to 50 Indian cities and more than 25 countries, from Papua, New Guinea to the United States, with a branch also in the South Bronx. But the “powers-that-be” didn’t know how to deal with her! They sent two limousines to the airport to meet her, one for her, and one for her luggage! She arrived smiling, with her personal belongings in a shopping bag, and the welcoming committee was completely at a loss what to do. They would have no problem at all with heads of state, and other dignitaries but, with this little frail woman who had some sort of extraordinary aura about her, this made them feel powerless, and they were in awe in the presence of a power and a strength with which they were totally unfamiliar. That is what Jesus speaks of today in the Gospel.

19) My Mother taught me Humility and Real Responsibility: Indra Nooyi from Chennai, India is the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history. She recounted the day 14 years ago when she was told that she would be made president of PepsiCo and be named to the board of directors. She said she was “overwhelmed” but her mother’s reaction was, she said, “Let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?” Ms Nooyi recalled her mother telling her when she reacted to this “disregard” of her good news, “Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house.” “You know, I’ve never seen that crown,” the corporate honcho said. [Fr. Kayala

20) The Sweetest Sound: There is a story that Hebrew families tell their children to help them understand the third commandment. The third commandment reads, “Six days you shall labor but on the seventh you shall rest.” The story is called, “The Sweetest Sound.” The main character in the story is King Ruben. It goes something like this. The king asked his royal subjects, “What is the sweetest melody of all?” Early the next morning they gathered all sorts of musicians. The sound awoke the king and all morning he listened to their tunes. But, after listening to all of them he could not tell which was the sweetest sound. Finally, one subject suggested they all play together. It was so noisy the king couldn’t think. About that moment a woman, dressed in her Sunday best, pushed to the front of the crowd and stepped forward. “O, king,” she said, “I have the answer to your question.” The king was surprised since she had no instrument. “Why didn’t you come earlier?” he asked. She replied, “I had to wait until the setting of the sun.” The musicians were still playing, and the king told them all to stop. The woman then took two candles and placed them on the king’s balcony rail. She lit them just as the sun continued to set. The flames glowed in the evening darkness. She then lifted her voice and said, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, Our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with the Commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights.” She then said, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” Everyone was completely still. “What is that?” asked the king. He could not hear a sound. The woman then replied, “What you hear is the sound of rest, the sweetest melody of all.” — Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is also the sweetest sound any of us can hear. [Keith Wagner, True Freedom; quoted by Fr. Kayala (http://www.tkayala.com)]
21) Adding to our burdens or lightening them: Once upon a time an abbot and a young monk lived together in a hut. Eventually the abbot was impressed by the spiritual progress of the young monk. He let him live on his own in a riverbank hut. Each night the young monk used to put out his religious habit to dry. It was his only possession. One morning he was dismayed to find that his only habit had been torn by rats. He begged for a second habit from the villagers. When the rats destroyed that one, he got a cat. But now he had to beg not only for food for himself but milk for the cat. To get around that, he bought a cow. Then he had to buy a land for the cow to graze. Then he hired workers to cultivate the excess land. Checking on the workers was heavy work. So, he married a wife to do the job. Soon he was the wealthiest person in the village. He built himself a beautiful mansion where his hut stood. After several years the abbot visited him and asked the young monk. “Why are you living in such a mansion? What is the meaning of all this?” The young monk answered, “There was no other way to protect my religious habit from the rats!” (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Kayala).

22) The Gospel of service: One of the “saints” of the Zen religion is a priest named Tetsugen, who was the first to translate the holy books of his Faith into Japanese. Many years ago, the priest sought to print several thousand copies of the books in order to make the texts of Japan’s religion available to everyone.  He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing.  Rich and poor alike donated to the project.  The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies. After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter.  The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless. Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again.  It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money, he needed to publish the holy book.  But an epidemic spread across the country.  Again, the priest gave away all he had collected to care the sick, the suffering and dying. A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto.  The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book; the first two are invisible, but far superior to the third. — Jesus invites us to embrace the joyful sense of fulfillment that can only be realized by “learning” from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his “yoke” of humble, joyful service to one another as we journey together to the dwelling place of God.  Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the generosity and compassion we extend to others.  In our work for justice, in our dedication to reconciliation, in our welcome to all who approach our tables, we make the word of God of a living reality in our own time and place.(Connections). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

23) Worries of the rich: In his book Affluenza, the psychologist Oliver James points out that ‘almost a quarter of Britain suffers serious emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety, and another quarter are on the verge thereof. Put bluntly, half of us are in a bad way… those earning over £50,000… were recently shown to be more prone to depression and anxiety than those earning less.’ Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

24) Jesus the yoke maker: There is a wonderful legend concerning the quiet years of Jesus, the years prior to his visible ministry. The legend claims that Jesus the carpenter was one of the master yoke-makers in the Nazareth area. People came from miles around for a yoke, hand-carved and crafted by Jesus son of Joseph. When customers arrived with their team of oxen Jesus would spend considerable time measuring the team, their height, the width, the space between them, and the size of their shoulders. Within a week, the team would be brought back and he would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to this particular team of oxen. That’s the yoke Jesus invites us to take. Do not be misled by the word “easy,” for its root word in Greek speaks directly of the tailor-made yokes: they were “well-fitting.” The yoke Jesus invites us to take, the yoke that brings rest to weary souls, is one that is made exactly to our lives and hearts. The yoke he invites us to wear fits us well, does not rub us nor cause us to develop sore spirits and is designed for two. His yokes were always designed for two. And our yoke-partner is none other than Christ himself…(Sermons.com)

25) Gossiping secretary: There is a story told of a woman who had a terrible problem with gossip. She worked as a parish secretary, knew a lot about the comings and goings of parishioners, and related these facts almost compulsively to whoever would listen. She heard the Gospel all the time; she knew it was wrong; but she couldn’t stop. One day she admitted her problem to a priest. The priest simply asked her what she feared would happen if she stopped gossiping. After reflecting for a moment, she finally replied, “I’m afraid that I’ll be boring, that people will lose interest in me.” Deep down, she was afraid that she was not lovable in her own right. The priest then suggested that she bring this fear to Christ in prayer. When this woman did so, she sensed Christ telling her, “Fear not.” She felt Christ loving her, supporting her and giving her strength. She kept the practice up; she kept going to Christ with the root of her temptation; she kept receiving his assurance. Things didn’t change overnight, of course. But little by little she was transformed. Because she became convinced that she was loved quite apart from her gossip, she gradually let go of the habit and she experienced peace and consolation. Often, when we struggle with a burden of sin and are not at peace, it’s because there’s a deeper cause, some fear or insecurity that we have not yet brought to Christ for healing. Christ invites us today saying, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Fr. Lakra) 

26) POPE FRANCIS’ WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Weep not for what you have lost, fight for what you have.
Weep not for what is dead, fight for what was born in you.
Weep not for the one who abandoned you, fight for who is with you.
Weep not for those who hate you, fight for those who want you.
Weep not for your past, fight for your present struggle.
Weep not for your suffering, fight for your happiness.
With things that are happening to us, we begin to learn that nothing is impossible to solve, just move forward. 

27) Growing in humility St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism, laid down in his famous Rule, twelve steps for a monk to grow in the virtue of humility. Here are a few of them, summarized and adapted for laypersons today. (Of course, to apply these also requires the virtue of prudence.) Consciously obey all of God’s commandments and whatever you see to be his will. Obediently submit to those persons in authority over you. Endure difficulties without complaining inwardly or outwardly. Confess your sins and faults in the sacrament of Penance. Admit to yourself you are full of faults and not all that specialRestrain yourself from speaking and say only what is necessary. 


***


 Sermons.com  
There is a wonderful legend concerning the quiet years of Jesus, the years prior to his visible ministry. The legend claims that Jesus the carpenter was one of the master yoke-makers in the Nazareth area. People came from miles around for a yoke, hand carved and crafted by Jesus son of Joseph. 


When customers arrived with their team of oxen Jesus would spend considerable time measuring the team, their height, the width, the space between them, and the size of their shoulders. Within a week, the team would be brought back and he would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to this particular team of oxen. 


That's the yoke Jesus invites us to take. Do not be misled by the word "easy," for its root word in Greek speaks directly of the tailor-made yokes: they were "well-fitting." The yoke Jesus invites us to take, the yoke that brings rest to weary souls, is one that is made exactly to our lives and hearts. The yoke he invites us to wear fits us well, does not rub us nor cause us to develop sore spirits and is designed for two. His yokes were always designed for two. And our yoke-partner is none other than Christ himself...


A mother was preparing breakfast for her two-year-old daughter. She asked the toddler, "What would you like for breakfast--a bagel or a bowl of cereal?"
 The little girl answered, "Chocolate."
 "No," her mother replied, "You can't have chocolate for breakfast. Do you want a bagel or cereal?"
 Again the little girl said, "Chocolate."
 Slightly exasperated, the mother said, "No, honey. You can't have my chocolate until after lunch. Now what do you want . . .a bagel or cereal?"
The little girl said with a grin, "Lunch!" (as told by Don Colbert, What Would Jesus Eat? [2002], 145).  

Cravings. We all get them. Whether they are the need for ice cream at midnight, or hot wings during the big game, or some Sunday evening yearning for a mystery casserole your grandmother cooked up when you were eight. We crave flavors with our taste buds, but even more we crave them with our memories, and our souls.  


As life unfolds our "good food" memories are too often gradually replaced by appetites of a different nature. Instead of sweet or salty, savory or creamy, we desire more expensive, heady, sometimes toxic mixtures. Our appetite is whetted not by honey or gravies, but by success, by advancements, by money, by security, by power... 

A Beautiful Doxology  
Early one morning some years ago, Robert Raines got into his car and started driving through the mountains. There was no one on the road (at that time) as the mountains were quietly beginning a new day. The beautiful colors of autumn were splashed all over the trees. It was a magnificent and glorious sight as the early morning sun glistened upon the wonders of the mountains and the valleys below.

And then it happened... Robert Raines saw one of the most beautiful things he had ever witnessed in his life.


Right there at the very edge of that great mountain peak and facing the gorgeous valley below... was a young man in his early twenties with a trumpet pressed to his lips. And, do you know what he was playing? With his lungs expanded fully and releasing all of the energy in his soul, he was playing the Doxology on his trumpet!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!


The point is clear: With all the stresses and problems in this life, still the truth is:
- We have so many doxologies to sing,
- So much to be grateful for,
- So many blessings to count.

The point is: Life is more than a grueling endurance test. Life is more than a survival game. Life is more than a coping competition.

So, you see... it's not enough to just escape the stress. It's not enough to just endure the stress. Thank God... there is another option...
James W. Moore, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

 Counter-cultural Surrender 

There is something quite important for us to understand as we celebrate Independence Day. There is a "flip flop" quality to understanding today's scripture. It goes counter to our usual way of thinking. America is the home of Davey Crocket who conquered the "wild frontier" and Wyatt Earp who tamed the "wild west." We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, strength and the glory of a "self-made" man or woman. Surrender is what we did not do. With brains and brawn we became a super power in the world. "Yankee Ingenuity" is the brilliance that made us great. Resisting the yoke others would put on us is the strength that made us free.


Now Jesus comes along to say that wisdom and intelligence did not cut the mustard when it comes to knowing God. Not only is the yoke not to be resisted, we are to voluntarily take this yoke upon ourselves and surrender to one who is greater than us!

How counter-cultural can you get? We can not fight, or think or power ourselves into the kingdom of God and the peace of Christ. 
John Jewell, Knowing God

 The Discipline of Simplicity 
In Richard Foster's book of discipline he divides discipline into three parts: Inward, Outward, and Corporate discipline. He places simplicity under the category of the Outward Disciplines. Here are his nine ways to order our world so that we can create simplicity in our life. 
First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
Third, develop a habit of giving things away.
Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them.
Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
Seventh, look at a healthy skepticism at all "buy now, pay later" schemes.
Eighth, obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.
Ninth, reject anything that will breed the oppression of others.
Tenth, shun whatever would distract you from you main goal: "Seek first the kingdom of God."
 
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.

 The Sweetest Sound 
There is a story that Hebrew families tell their children to help them understand the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment reads, "Six days you shall labor but on the seventh you shall rest." The story is called, "The Sweetest Sound." The main character in the story is King Ruben. It goes something like this.

The king asked his royal subjects, "What is the sweetest melody of all?" Early the next morning they gathered all sorts of musicians. The sound awoke the king and all morning he listened to their tunes. But, after listening to all of them he could not tell which was the sweetest sound. Finally, one subject suggested they all play together. It was so noisy the king couldn't think.

About that moment a woman, dressed in her Sunday best, pushed to the front of the crowd and stepped forward. "O, king," she said, "I have the answer to your question." The king was surprised since she had no instrument. "Why didn't you come earlier?" he asked. She replied, "I had to wait until the setting of the sun." The musicians were still playing and the king told them all to stop.

The woman then took two candles and placed them on the king's balcony rail. She lit them just as the sun continued to set. The flames glowed in the evening darkness. She then lifted her voice and said, "Blessed art thou, O Lord, Our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with the commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights." She then said, "He who has an ear, let him hear."


Everyone was completely still. "What is that?" asked the king." He could not hear a sound. The woman then replied, "What you hear is the sound of rest, the sweetest melody of all."

Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is also the sweetest sound any of us can hear.
 
Keith Wagner, True Freedom

 A Contented Man 
A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. 
David Leininger, Ask the Average Person, www.eSermons.com

 Did You Use All Your Strength? 
I remember an old story about a little boy who was out helping dad with the yard work. Dad asked him to pick up the rocks in a certain area of the yard. Dad looked over and saw him struggling to pull up a huge rock buried in the dirt. The little boy struggled and struggled while Dad watched. Finally, the boy gave up and said, "I can't do it." Dad asked, "Did you use all of your strength?" The little boy looked hurt and said, "Yes, sir. I used every ounce of strength I have." The father smiled and said, "No you didn't. You didn't ask me to help." The father walked over and then the two of them pulled that big rock out of the dirt. 
One of the great Biblical truths seems impossible. Liberty comes through being yoked with Christ.
Billy D. Strayhorn, Freedom through the Yoke

Our Value in God's Eyes 
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of two hundred, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 bill to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air. 
"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To God, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are always priceless." 
Traditional

 Rest 
One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did." 
"But you didn't notice," said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest." 

 Don't Miss Life 
Frank Lloyd Wright, the world-famous architect, told how a lecture he received at the age of nine helped set his philosophy of life. An uncle, a stolid, no-nonsense type, had taken him for a long walk across a snow-covered field. At the far side, his uncle told him to look back at their two sets of tracks. "See, my boy," he said, "how your footprints go aimlessly back and forth from those trees, to the cattle, back to the fence then over there where you were throwing sticks? But notice how my path comes straight across, directly to my goal. You should never forget this lesson!" "And I never did," Wright said. "I determined right then not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had."