domenica 9 luglio 2017

«Venite ad me»

Last Sunday we finished the reading of the second part of Matthew’s gospel. Today we start the third part, whose subject is “the Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.” This part also is subdivided into two sections—a narrative one and a discourse. Next Sunday we will begin the reading of the third discourse of Jesus—the so-called “Sermon of Parables.” The only passage from the narrative section that we read is the one we have just heard: few verses—six altogether—but very important. They are exactly about the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the narrative section Jesus is forced to take note that not all welcome him and his teachings; he has to face several oppositions to his ministry. He could complain of this; on the contrary, he thanks God for it: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” Refusal of the truth is part of the mysterious plan of God: it is God that, in his inscrutable design, has willed to hide his mystery from the wise and the learned—we can see in them the scribes and the Pharisees, and all those who, at any time, convinced as they are of knowing everything, shut themselves to any new revelation of the truth. So, God has hidden his mystery from the wise and the learned; nonetheless, he has willed to reveal it to little ones. Who are these? Literally, “little ones” means infants, babies; but Jesus is referring here to all those who become childlike, that is, like children, not only for their innocence, but also for their openness to the truth. From these words, we understand that the revelation of the mystery of the Kingdom is a gift of God; but that does not mean that we are not responsible for our openness or closure in front of the truth.

After these verses, which are a proper prayer, Jesus reveals his mysterious relationship with God; he names God “Father” (Abba) and calls himself “Son,” and between the two there is a perfect communion: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” As you can see, we are facing here the mystery of the Holy Trinity. All that the Son is and has comes from the Father. The Father and the Son are two distinct persons, but possessing the same nature. From these words, we can understand another great truth: that any revelation happens through the Son, that is, through Jesus Christ. There are no other revealers of God: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Those who claim to know God, regardless of Christ, in reality are just proposing a personal idea of God, not the only true living God.

The last three verses are an invitation to approach Jesus: “Come to me (Venite ad me), all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is addressing every person—all of us are weary and heavy laden with the weight of life—and promises rest. To find rest, we have to go to Jesus. Whenever we encounter in the gospel such expression, it is an invitation to believe in him. Then Jesus invites us to take his yoke: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” “Yoke” is a piece of wood fastened across the necks of two oxen so that they can pull heavy loads; in the Old Testament, it was used as an image for the observance of God’s law. Obviously, the law of God is not a burden, but some interpretations of it can be so. Jesus has come to free us from all burdens. But in order for this to happen, we have to take upon us his yoke, which is easy; we have to load ourselves with his burden, which is light. What does it mean? Jesus himself explains it: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” We have to look at Jesus and try to live according to his example. He was meek and humble of heart; we also have to be, like him, meek and humble of heart. But this is not enough—even to imitate Jesus, with his perfection so distant from our weakness, could be a burden for us. Jesus does not confine himself to showing an example to follow and saying: “It’s your problem!” He gives us also the tools to do it; he gives us the Holy Spirit, mentioned in the second reading. The Holy Spirit is the power that allows us to observe the law of God without feeling it as a burden. The Holy Spirit, who is Love, is what makes the yoke easy and the burden light.