Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rest for your soul

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Mat 11:25-30

The central verse in the Sunday Gospel, for which a cross-reference can be found in the book of Jeremiah:

"Thus says the LORD,
Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls." Jer 6:16

Way back during my High School Citizen's Army Training days, I could remember the time when we went on a camping trip. The campsite was in a mountainous area and we were dropped off about 4 kilometers from the site in the heat of the mid-day sun. With heavy backpacks, we trudged along in our uncomfortable fatigues. The extreme heat coupled with the weight burdening our backs was almost unbearable. It was utterly exhausting and many of us were at the the point of collapsing from exhaustion.

What just made it bearable was that we encouraged the slow among us, shared whatever little water we had, and made jokes all the way to relieve the stress. It also helped that we chose a good path. That way, we looked forward to reaching the campsite together and finally resting.

Could the verses above refer to a similar analogy of resting? A final relief from burden? Maybe.
But my bible pastoral edition notes say that Jesus means to give us the means of carrying the load, not removing the load altogether.

What load could those be at these times? It could be any of these: financial difficulties, family problems, problems at work, health concerns, conflicts with friends and relatives. Among these, financial difficulties seem to be the most prominent among all classes, from which all other problems simply emanate. For the very poor, it means grappling daily with the most basic necessity of food. For the lower middle class, it may well be the prohibitive cost of providing for education and healthcare. For the very rich, the challenge of amassing more wealth is at the root which permeates much more complex, graver problems. The latter ones are actually the most unfortunate. Whatever class or orientation one is in, all these problems likely envelop an all-consuming struggle that defines existence on a persistent daily basis, with no relief in sight, and no room for anything else. And as people rely more on their own isolated private capacities, the more unbearable it just becomes.

Scriptures tell us that if we come to Jesus, he will give the means of carrying the load, as his yoke is easy. He says it very plainly: I will give you rest. Very likely in a manner that we will now be in a position to even help others carry their load. How come? St. Paul in 2 Cor 9:11 gives a hint: "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion".

Like that camping trip, it would be easier if we find space in our own trials to encourage the slow, share the water around, and seek the good path. Then all problems everywhere will just be simple inconveniences, all loads will seem so light, and yes - we can all make jokes about our "problems", because the real problem is when we cannot find Jesus in our lives.

No comments: