Reflection for the fourth Sunday after Trinity

Reading Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Reflection

None of us enjoy being on the receiving end of criticism, and unjustified criticism is even harder to take. In the gospel reading, Jesus compared the group of people who criticised both him and John the Baptist to children jeering each other in the street. They criticised both of them for completely opposite reasons. They dismissed John the Baptist as a madman because of his austere lifestyle, fasting and living in isolation in the desert. Those same people criticised Jesus because He mingled freely with sinners and outcasts, sharing meals with them and reaching out to them with compassion.

Those critics were the religious elite – the learned people who acted as gate-keepers, deciding who was or was not worthy of approval. They had closed minds and were incapable of seeing the good done by both John and Jesus – John through his uncompromising and forthright preaching and Our Lord through His ministry among the poor and the sick, bringing them healing and wholeness.

While some rejected Jesus and His message, others warmly received Him with open hearts. These were His followers for whom He thanked God the Father in the prayer contained in this reading. ‘I thank you Father, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants’. This was not intended to insult His followers as ignorant, but rather to recognise that they had responded to His message with the open-hearted enthusiasm of young children.

Our Lord came to draw people to the love of God. He went to where the people were, people of all kinds and conditions. If He had to break with customs and conventions, by eating and drinking with those who were regarded as outcasts, then He did so gladly, because the people mattered to Him. They responded to Him with enthusiasm and they discovered a life with meaning and joy and hope.

In the final paragraph of the gospel, we have that wonderful invitation by Jesus which summarises the relationship enjoyed by everyone who responds open-heartedly to Him. ‘Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’.

This includes all of the burdens we carry in life – the burden of guilt for which we find forgiveness; the burdens of worry and anxiety for which we find peace of mind when we place our trust in Christ; The burdens of anger, bitterness, jealousy and resentment, which can be replaced with a new way of living, when as forgiven people we learn to forgive others. There are also the burdens of pain and loss, for which we find healing in Christ.

That is what we receive, but there is also what we give. Jesus said ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’. As followers of Jesus we are called to learn from His example of reaching out in open-hearted service to those around us.

We have witnessed some wonderful examples of open-hearted giving by many people who have served others in the frontline of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone who watched the RTÉ documentary about St. James’ Hospital, screened a few nights ago, could not help being moved by how the medical staff went above and beyond the call of duty in the care of very ill and frightened patients, some at the end of their lives, without their closest family members beside them. They treated the patents with compassion, dignity and love. We know that this level of care was replicated across the country in every hospital.

Volunteers have reached out to help vulnerable people who were isolated. In Trim the local Red Cross have delivered groceries and prescriptions to the elderly and housebound. GAA clubs and other volunteers have being doing the same for months. Their commitment and service to others deserves to be recognised.

Where can we be open-hearted and generous to others? May God strengthen and help us to be open-hearted towards Him and to the needs of people we encounter.

Collect for the fourth Sunday after Trinity

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake, our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Jesus said: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. Let us pray for the church and the world:

Lord, Come to your church and equip your people to speak words of comfort to all who seek meaning and purpose in life. We pray for this diocese, its people and for Pat, our bishop. As many of our churches reopen for worship, we pray that all who gather there may know the joy of your presence. Bless all who worship at home and are unable to come to public worship. Assure them that you are with them always.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for the leaders of nations, for our newly appointed government and for all who bear the burden of leadership. We pray especially for all who are responsible for public health policy during this pandemic. Guide them with all wisdom in the decisions they make. We pray for countries where the COVID-19 virus is prevalent, especially in places where they lack resources to provide adequate healthcare. Support all agencies and medical staff caring for vulnerable people.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all frontline workers in our health service who have been under great stress over recent months. We give thanks for all they have given and pray for their protection in their work. We pray for patients recovering in hospital, and all who care for them. We remember all who are sick, in hospital, nursing homes and at home. Grant them your peace and healing. We pray for all who bear the burden of grief and who mourn the loss of loved ones. Comfort them in their sorrow. May the memories they treasure be a comfort to them.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who are worried and anxious – those under financial strain; business owners trying to restart their business and those who are out of work or at risk of losing jobs. We pray for school children who have missed so much, especially sixth year students awaiting the outcome of assessment. We pray for school principals and teachers facing challenging circumstances when schools reopen. Help them to bring their burdens to you and to know your peace.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We remember with thanksgiving all who have ended their earthly journey and have laid down their burdens and gone to rest in your nearer presence. Bring us with them to the fullness of your eternal kingdom.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

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