Thought for the week - 9 July
We might sometimes wonder to ourselves how Christ sometimes felt as He spoke to His followers and to His Father in heaven. We will never know, just as I don’t know how the dog I am currently looking after for my brother really feels about being abandoned here, in a reasonably unfamiliar place, where seagulls try to intimidate him. Christ came to earth from heaven – He had an eternal life before – knowing that he was taking on a human life in order to lose it. He was occasionally annoyed with people, accusing his disciples of a lack of understanding and occasionally being just a little foolish. He cried for Lazarus his friend, he felt fear in the garden of Gethsemane, and we know he felt love in abundance – but these are all interactions with other human beings. In today’s gospel we eavesdrop on the Trinity, we have an insight into His other relationships with the supernatural. In the midst of his public ministry in Galilee – indeed in the midst of public rejection of himself, his ways, and his teaching, – Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God turns to his Heavenly Father. We are allowed access to the intimacy of the Beloved Son and the Almighty Father “Lord of heaven and earth’’. The same can be said of the voice at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. But there the voice is from heaven. Here it arises from the earth, here God as Man calls out to God as Father and Holy Spirit – it’s a connection to a home that must have seemed such a long way away, and inaccessible except through death – as it is to Him, as it is to us.
It is significant that, within the flow of the story as told by Matthew, this prayer not only emerges out of a chapter of doubt about Jesus and rejection of him by his fellow Galileans, but it is also followed by a chapter full of conflict, containing a reference to the Suffering Servant of the prophet Isaiah and the first mention of a conspiracy to destroy him.
Water runs down hills, but it can also force its way up if there is a greater pressure which animates it, thus making a jet of a fountain rise to unnatural heights, higher and greater in its majesty – and the resistance to His teaching, the foolishness of the disciples, the threat of plots against Him, the sheer anger he must have felt about the situation he was in, gives rise to this beautiful outpouring of praise and blessing from Son to Father, from the Word made flesh to the creative force of the Universe. It finds echo in the Magnificat of Mary as well, an outpouring of praise and love forced from the vessel of humanity by the presence of God, making the human rise to greater heights, like a fountain giving space to water pressure. As for Mary, as For Jesus, when injustice and oppression are encountered, their voice sings to God for justice and redemption, as ours surely does in our prayers as well. I was saying last week that there are things we have no control over, but those things find their home in our prayers and their hope in our relationship with God.
The outpouring of praise and the explication of the relationship between the Father and the Son finds its source and summit in an offer of hope and new creation made in His image - “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”. He does not say “Come to a God you cannot see” and he does not say ‘’come to church’’ he says - “Come to me”. And he portrays himself as a member of a divine family which is forever now tied to the human race, a man who is “meek and humble of heart (in whom you) will find rest for your souls”. As Isaiah put it:” He will not break a bruised reed nor quench the smouldering wick”. His availability to us, His disciples, is not just spiritual, it is physical, created from the family He has in the Father and Spirit and made flesh in His body and blood and in the church. As Matthew recounts, He is “Emmanuel – God with us”. And where two or three gather in his name” I, I myself, am with you”: in the final breath of the gospel, he says – “Know that I am with you always until the end of time”.
The yoke of following Him is said to be light and easy, but the burdens that we carry with the yoke can all too often be hard and weighty and as we are reminded, in this world we will have trouble. But the Church has no business adding to those weights, but the purpose of the church of God, as the primary exemplar of the Body of Christ in the world, is to model the simplicity of the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to remind us that he is with us always, to shoulder our burden with Him and to model the good relationships and love of the Trinity in our ecclesial life. In who we are, in our DNA as the Body of Christ, runs hope and runs love, like a river under pressure, waiting to find a crack to rise up from, showing the world that we contain His own self, and through our cracks we seep His love and His mercy and His hope.
“And in his name all the nations shall find hope”.(Mt12.21)