Fr David’s Reflections
In normal times we gather as a community in Church every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. At present this is not possible, but I will aim to provide a weekly reflection throughout this period of social distancing and self isolation. The reflection will normally be based on the Mass readings for that Sunday. To help keep us united as a community, each Sunday we can:
- look at the readings for that particular Sunday
- read the reflection
- spend some time in quiet reflection about what this means to us at this particular point in our lives
- share our thoughts and keep in touch with other parishioners by phone or social media.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 5th July 2020
Would you like to listen to this week’s reflection? Fr David’s spoken reflection is available here.
As a student, one of my finest teachers was the late Jesuit scripture scholar Fr. Daniel Harrington. Not only was Dan an outstanding teacher he was also kind and generous with his students. He told us that for him the Bible was the most important way to know, love and serve God. Dan was also one of the most hardworking men I have ever met. Besides teaching he was the author of more than fifty books and several hundred articles. I can recall Dan reflecting on the third commandment (“to keep the sabbath day holy”) saying that God wanted us to rest. This man, who had written more books than anyone I knew, did no work on Sunday. He began keeping the day holy by worshipping God. He celebrated Mass on Sunday precisely to acknowledge that he participates in the rest that God enjoys. We imitate God, who rested on the Sabbath. Dan told us that the commandment teaches us to recognise our limits and to enjoy them as God-given.
We hear Jesus today tell his followers to take a rest: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Jesus never minced his words about the sins of the religious leaders of his day. One that seemed to rankle him most was the fact that the religious leaders had taken away precious rest and peace from people’s lives. They told people that in order to have religious meaning they slavishly had to observe the details of 613 commandments. The heaviest burden that ordinary people had to carry was their religion.
The religious leaders had even twisted the meaning of their most sacred day, the Sabbath. People were forbidden to perform even ordinary acts of charity for those in need. The Sabbath law had become so perversely interpreted that if a fly landed on your nose, you were forbidden to swoop it off! The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had robbed the people of rest and peace that the Sabbath was supposed to offer the weary.
Religion as a “yoke” was how many ordinary people understood the Law. They saw their faith as a burden. Jesus summons people to take up his yoke and invites people to come to him. He describes “his” yoke as “easy.” How can that be? The difference is that the yoke of Jesus is Jesus himself. It is based on an intimate relationship with the meek and humble Jesus which brings us rest and peace. Jesus is not dispensing with the Law but he refuses to allow the religious leaders to turn it into a burden for broken people.
During these months of lockdown many of us have been forced to slow down. We have also had an opportunity to reflect on how we have been living our lives. People have told me that they have come to recognise the many burdens that rob them of peace and have left them feeling weary. Parents have been getting to know their children rather than rushing around desperately trying to ensure their children don’t miss out on each and every activity, entertainment or sports event. We have come to recognise that we have been living in a world that equates busyness with success and constant activity with importance. We bring our laptops and mobile phones on holiday and are working more hours today than thirty years ago. It seems that the more efficient, smart and progressive our society becomes, the more burdens we have to carry around and the less time we have for ourselves, for our loved ones and for our God.
Hopefully this time of forced rest has also enabled us to give ourselves solitude, time to replenish the spirit. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton was right when he wrote, “It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can love my brothers and sisters.” And it is in this solitude that we come to realise that we need God.
The Canadian novelist, Douglas Coupland, published a collection of short stories in 1994 called ‘Life After God.’ One of the stories is narrated by a character named Scout. Scout has moved away from society and is searching for meaning, religion or a connection to God. Towards the end of the story Scout whispers these words: “Now – here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you read these words. My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.” I need God.
To those who are restless and weary and need God, Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”
Fr David Roberts
Fr David’s Reflections
If you would like to read any of Fr David’s previous reflections, please contact the Parish Office for a copy via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.