XIV Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
To enter this Sunday's Gospel passage (Mt 11:25-30), I would like to take a step back and return to the beginning of the "missionary discourse," where we saw that Jesus was moved by the crowd because he saw the people tired and exhausted (Mt 9:36). We had noticed that they were tired and exhausted because they had no reference, no guidance, no relationship, that gave foundation and security to life.
Today, we also find terms that speak of fatigue and weariness: Jesus is addressing all those who are tired and oppressed (Mt 11:28), and thus He seems to want to tell us that this experience of debilitation and fatigue is part of daily life, of every man's experience.
The term fatigue, in fact, resonates in the Bible from the very first pages: after sin, God meets man again and speaks to him of fatigue and pain (Gen. 3:16-19), experiences that entered the world at the precise moment when man stopped trusting God; we could say that fatigue became part of human experience, when man no longer knew God as Father, as a companion on the road, as a good and reliable presence.
And it is truly so: if we do not know God as Father, life becomes fatiguing, because we are alone and, alone, we have to build our lives; we too are weary and exhausted like sheep without a shepherd.
To all people, weary and oppressed, Jesus issues an invitation: “come to me” (Mt 11:28).
His message is not intended, first and foremost, for those who have no problems, those who make it through; it is for all those who experience the hardness of life.
What does Jesus offer to such as these? Twice the term refreshment returns (Mt 11:28-29): but what refreshment is it, that, according to Jesus, would be the true rest for body and soul?
Here, we could say that the only refreshment Jesus offers is the knowledge of the Father, that knowledge lost and forgotten, stifled, and lost among the fears and errors of life.
What then truly rests us? Knowing the Father.
Indeed, Jesus, and He alone, can offer us this rest, for He alone knows the Father (Mt 11:27) and He alone can and will reveal Him to us.
This passage, in the whole of Matthew's Gospel, represents like a pause: so far Jesus has been speaking, performing healings and miracles, meeting people, calling disciples; now, at this point, Jesus pauses, and contemplates the Father's work. He recognizes that everything he is doing is not his own work, but the work of the Father. Jesus contemplates this work, and stops in amazement to admire His way.
Recognizing the Father's way, knowing his plan of salvation for the world, this is the first work of the Son, the most important thing Jesus does, the thing he wishes to share with us.
What is this way?
The first characteristic of the Father's way is that he has given everything to the Son (Mt 11:27).
The Father is someone who gives everything, who keeps nothing for himself who puts himself completely in the Son's hands. If sin exhausts us, because it makes us believe that the Father does not give us everything he has, on the contrary, knowing the Father rests us: life is his gift, we can trust.
Knowing the Father then becomes a liberating experience: that is why the burden is light (Mt 11:30).
This knowledge, however, is not for everyone: while the Father finds total acceptance in the Son, for some, God the Father remains out of their understanding. Those who are not mild, those who do not recognize their own fatigue and weakness, cannot open themselves to Jesus' revelation. To them, God remains hidden (Mt 11:25).
But then, who can know the Father?
He can be known by those who, like Jesus, first let themselves be known by Him (Mt 11:27): Adam, after sin, had hidden himself, was afraid to be met and known by God, he was afraid to open his heart to Him, to manifest his error, to believe in His forgiveness. The light burden, which Jesus offers us, is that of a free and humble integrity, which knows how to stand before the Father as a child who knows His mercy.
Standing before the Father without fear, with trust, without hiding anything from Him, simply letting Him love us, this is the way to know the Father, to find rest.
Finally, the one who is known by the Father, who gradually learns to know Him and thus trust Him, can finally praise and bless: "I bless You, O Father...for it has pleased You" (Mt 11:25-26).
Those who learn to place their trust in the Father will also learn to live trusting, without hiding, and thus the burdens of life will suddenly become "lighter and softer."