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This Sunday's Programme

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14th Sunday A

Sunday 9th July 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mt 11:25-30

After confronting his contemporaries concerning their rejection of John the Baptist and their failure to repent after seeing his own miracles, Jesus spoke these words:

I acclaim you, Father, Master of all the heavens and of the earth. You have concealed these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to mere children. Yes, that is delightful to you.

All has been given to me by my Father and no-one recognises the Son except the Father and those to whom the Father gives this knowledge and no-one recognises the Son except those to whom he wants to give this knowledge.

Come to me all you who are labouring and overwhelmed and I will give you rest. Lift my yoke upon you and learn from me – then you will find rest for your souls. Indeed, my yoke is kind, my burden light.

 

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 144: 1-2, 8-11, 13-14.

I extol you my God and king.
I bless your name through all ages and for all eternity.
Each and every day I praise
and bless your name.

God is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
good to all,
tender to all his creation.

All your deeds acclaim your praise.
All your holy people bless you.
They acclaim your glory
and your mastery over all.

Your kingdom is for all time,
You are Lord of every generation.
God supports all who falter,
raises those overwhelmed by life.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you know deeply we feel overburdened for you sent your Son to be one of us, sharing our burdens, feeling our fear, facing our death. Send us your Spirit that we may truly trust the depth of your love and care, shown in the person of Jesus. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

Just before this Gospel text begins there is the phrase ‘in that time’ which clearly links this material with what is around it. Before this text, Jesus condemns his contemporaries for not being open to neither his witness nor that of John the Baptist. Even the miracles he did failed to make them reconsider their ways. After this Sunday’s reading, there are two instances where Jesus comes into conflict with the religious leaders concerning their narrow and rigoristic interpretation of the Law.

In the midst of this, Jesus offers these sayings which are among the most loved and heartfelt of all his words that have been preserved. There are three sections:

Firstly, Jesus praised and thanked his Father for his revelation to those who had been open to the teaching of Jesus. In calling them ‘mere children’ he stressed just how lacking in power and influence they were in their society. Having nothing to lose in following Jesus they had everything to gain and were blest accordingly.

Secondly, Jesus affirmed his intimate and privileged relationship with the Father. Reminiscent of the Gospel of John, this short proclamation echoes the affirmations of Jesus as God’s beloved Son that occurred at his Baptism and Transfiguration.

Thirdly, he invites us to come to him when we are overburdened. His use of the term ‘yoke’ draws on the contemporary image of the Divine Law, ‘the Torah’, as a yoke that disciplines people into the ways of God. Audaciously he refers to ‘his’ yoke. Throughout this Gospel, Jesus presents himself as the definitive interpreter of God’s Law. High and demanding as his Law may appear, it is made easy and light because he is yoked to us in love and it is in love that our souls are truly at rest.

 

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

When Jesus blesses ‘mere children’ over against the learned and clever, we need to pause and ask just what it is that he is blessing and what is being criticised. On a superficial reading we could think that Jesus was against education. Rather, having just experienced the closed attitude of the religious leaders who could only approve of people according to _their_ interpretation of the Law, we see that it is what people do with their knowledge that Jesus is discussing. When these leaders called for humility, it was for humility before them and for docility to their teaching. The ‘mere children’ that Jesus is referring to are his rough and ready disciples. Relatively ignorant of the Law and pragmatic in their outlook, they had, nonetheless, been ready to accept Jesus, his teaching and be open to the God he was talking about.

Jesus was not condemning education but rather what can be lost in pursuit of such. As one becomes knowledgeable, the danger of pride steps in. Firstly, one can be impressed by one’s knowledge and become lost to the wonder of the God who made the knowledge. Secondly, one is tempted to put others down so that one can put oneself up. I have met a number of people who in spite of a good education and a brilliant intelligence would still be classified as ‘the little ones’. Their education increased their awe of God and, when used in the service of their brothers and sisters, actually left them more open to the mystery of God’s love.

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

When Jesus says that he offers us an easy yoke we may well object given that a yoke was used on animals and slaves to do hard and difficult work. The image appears, at first, demeaning. Be that as it may, let us leave aside this first emotional reaction to the image and ask just what a yoke does. A yoke was a device, usually put around the neck of an animal, or even a person, to enable them to perform a task that was usually beyond them. No animal is ever going to be able to plough a field using only their hooves or their brute strength. A man yoked to a plough is far more effective in preparing a paddock for planting than trying to do it with a spade. Essentially, a yoke was not only a labour saving device, it was something that enabled a far superior job to be done.

Still that leaves the issue of its use being demeaning to a person. The [yoke most often used in Jesus times](http://www.yokeministries.org) (click red text for a picture of an ancient yoke) was a double yoke – one in which two beasts or people dragged the plough or load. When Jesus calls on us to take up his yoke and says that it easy, his burden light, it is because he is there alongside of us. Jesus fully recognises how hard and difficult our lives may be at times. We may well feel like beasts or slaves caught in situations beyond our control. He, too, has not only lived our life and died our death, he desires to be yoked to us sharing our burden and strengthening us in bearing our load.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– In this painting of Paul in prison Rembrandt we see the transforming power of the love of Jesus on the person of Paul who is in a situation normally judged terrible.

– James Tissot’s painting shows Jesus comforting those who come to him.

Consolator by Carl Bloch shows Jesus inviting all to him.

 

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to come to him with all the problems and difficulties of life.

– As you go through this week, mull on the times that the presence of Jesus or the strength of God has helped you to face the challenges of life. Jesus treats us uniquely – what was special about the way that he treated you.

– As you are strengthened by remembering the past, invite Jesus to be with you in all the ordinary events of your life.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Jesus invites us to come to him when we are overburdened or weary. Sometimes our greatest challenges are so deep and seem so difficult that we do not wish to face them. We pretend that they may go away.

– Sit quietly in the presence of God. Rest in God’s love.

– As you enter deeply into your heart, ask God to show you the challenges that you need to deal with at this time in your life. As you listen with your heart do not be surprised if this is different to what you would usually assume to be the difficulties you have to face. Often as we fixate on other people, we fail to recognise the work that is needed in our own lives.

– As you see your burdens, do not stress over them but offer them to God in love. Keep letting them go and rest in God’s love. As different burdens arise in your heart pass them over to God’s love.

– When you have let go of your burdens, rest in God’s love.

You may wonder what will happen to these burdens. They will not magically go away but now that you try to deal with them in the love of God, you will start to see them differently.