Each day we are bombarded with thousands of words. From the moment our clock radios click on in the morning, until the last moment of the day when the television is turned off or someone bids us “good-night,” our life is filled with words. Some words that we hear bring news that leaves us feeling low. Some words lift our spirits. Many of the words we hear are trying to get us to buy something. Some words are hurtful. Today the Church focuses our attention on hearing the word of God. Are God’s words just more of the same— part of the endless stream of words that flow into our ears each day? The challenge today is to allow God’s word to inspire us in new ways so that our outlook and attitudes align themselves more closely with the heart and mind of Christ Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). These words of our Savior seem to be in stark contrast to the previous chapter from the same Gospel, when we were told that if we do not take up our crosses, we are not worthy of Christ. Connecting these two messages might help us on our faith journeys. Being a follower of Christ surely means that we must embrace the cross, in its mystery of both suffering and triumph. This is something that we need not do alone, for the burden is often too heavy for us to carry by ourselves. Who, then, do we turn to? We can turn to the Body of Christ—the community of disciples gathered for worship. When we find the burden too heavy, let us remember that we can share that burden with our Christian sisters and brothers, who can help bring us rest.
Day in and day out, we are required to make judgment calls informed by tough, durable, serviceable Christian love. We do what we can do, and God takes notice. God is in charge of rewards, and a glass of water will do when that is what we have to offer with a glad and open heart.
Paul gives us a clear theology for the missionary work we do whenever anybody is close at hand. He reminds us that our work, our ministry, is carried on in concert with Christ. We have been baptized into his death and life. In any given moment both life and death are there, a kind of play of shadow and light. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where shadow leaves off and light begins. God will take care of that, too.
There is a good reason that the writings of St. Paul don’t show up as examples in grammar textbooks. Today’s reading is a case in point. It begins with one of those long Pauline run on sentences that leave lectors gasping for breath. So what? Take a closer look at how Paul’s fervor for his subject matter derails the grammar. There is something admirable about being so caught up in his convictions that the words cannot come fast enough to express them, much less in an orderly fashion. Scripture scholars usually take this grammatical ineptness as a sign of a passage’s early importance in the Christian community, something they were so ardent about that their language never got refined.READ MORE
God sustained the people of Israel for forty years in the desert with manna sent down from heaven, and Moses doesn’t want them to forget it. God brought forth water from stone for them to drink, and Moses doesn’t want them to forget this, either. And Moses tells them—twice—that the food that God sent was a food that neither they nor their ancestors before them had ever experienced before. Jesus too speaks of food that came down from heaven, food that the Jewish people had never experienced before. Recalling the manna in the desert, Jesus doesn’t want them to forget it either, explaining that he is the food and drink of eternal life. And Paul reiterates to the Corinthians and to all of us that in the bread and in the cup, we share in the body and blood of Christ.
Moses is a man after our own hearts, for haven’t we all dealt with more than our share of stiffnecked people? Indeed, haven’t we all gotten a little stiff-necked ourselves at times? Complaining . . . impatient . . . quick to anger. How lucky for Moses—how lucky for all of us—that God is exactly the opposite! And we don’t even have to guess about it. The Lord tells us so directly. Accordingly, Moses does what we all need to do. Even with the tablets in hand, he bows down and asks for God’s forgiveness and grace. Encouraging us to live together in peace—and in God’s favor—the Apostle Paul knows all about this grace, joyfully invoking Christ’s grace on us along with God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s. “Rejoice,” he says. And when it comes to rejoicing, John offers us the gladdest words of all: the assurance of eternal life through Jesus.