July 17, 2014 - THURSDAY 14TH WEEK:

ISAIAH 26:7-9.16-19- ; MATTHEW 11:28-30

Today's Gospel reminds each of us that whatever our education and practical experience in life, however long and broad, yet if we are true followers of Christ, we remain lifelong learners.  "Learn from me", Jesus proclaims for all to hear.  We cannot hope to be among his following unless we acknowledge him as the teacher from whom we seek true and saving knowledge.  He is given the title as The Teacher, (Ho Didaskalos in the Greek of St. John) to use a title his followers spontaneously adopted and that Jesus acknowledged.  On one occasion he told his apostles: "You call me Teacher (Didaskalos) and Lord, and you do well for I am that."   (John 13;13) All four Gospel accounts, in fact, refer to Jesus as devoting himself to teaching.  Our Lord spoke of himself as "speaking daily in the temple" (Mark 14:49) and Luke tell us that "he was preaching in their synagogue on Sabbath days"  Matthew also is explicit in presenting Jesus as a teacher and stresses that fact that "he was teaching them as one possessing power, not like the scribes and Pharisees."(7:29).

However, in today's passage it is not only his teaching by words that Matthew puts forward; rather, he cites our Lord as inviting us to learn by carefully observing his manner.  The first words of today's Gospel are a warmly expressed invitation: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest."  The point that Jesus makes in this brief passage draws our attention to his character and personality as well as to his verbal teaching.  He addresses himself invitingly, not to the comfortable and well-off but rather to the heavily burdened and the struggling.  Though he had already shown that he was superior to the best minds and the highly educated, yet here it is the under-privileged, the neglected with whom he is concerned.  What our Lord teaches here is that we are to learn true meekness and humility by careful attention to the warmth of his welcoming ways in treating with persons considered insignificant by society.

The message of today's brief Gospel takes on a fuller meaning if we place it in the context in which Matthew presents it.  He presents Jesus as including this inviting appeal to the poor and needy as a continuation of a prayer of praise to his heavenly Father.   "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and knowledgeable and revealed them to children." (Matthew 11:25)

As we reflect on this example of our Lord's identifying himself with the poor and neglected we are encouraged to open our inmost self to our Savior in grateful and loving trust.  Knowing our own poverty and weakness, we thank him for showing us in the words of this Gospel that, far from being repelled by our insignificance, Jesus thanks his heavenly Father for the particular care he displays for us in His Providence.  In a special way by giving us his beloved Son who offers himself for us in this Eucharist.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger