Our Gospel today is one of those passages that seems to summarise the Good News. Like the Road to Emmaus and John 3, it seems like an abbreviated version. In this it reminds of the sign of the Cross. But it also reminds me of the Cross in a couple of other ways.
The Cross is often described according to its two axes. The vertical axis is Christ reconciling God and humanity. The horizontal axis is the consequent reconciliation of creation, most especially of humanity, in the Church. Our gospel today seems to have the same structure.
First, Jesus, the Son of God become human, reveals his eternal communion with the Father. Then he extends this communion through his praise of God’s revelation and his invitations to us all to take up his yoke and learn from him. We might even say we have in our passage today the entire gospel in miniature.
Our gospel also reminds me of the Cross in that it seems to be like a climax of a series of passages, but a climax that then becomes the context for what went before.
his passage comes after Jesus has been condemning various groups for their pride, for their refusal to listen, for their refusal to believe, for their refusal to repent. They did not listen to St John the Baptist. They do not listen to Jesus. They do not even pay attention to the miracles worked in their midst. But it is our gospel today that shows what the nature of this condemnation is. Our gospel today is in fact the true context for those other passage.
Jesus warns this generation and these specific communities that they are in trouble, that they are headed for disaster. But they are headed for disaster precisely because their refusal to listen shuts off the way to peace. Their pride, their sophistication, their refusal to be humbled, prevents them from knowing God’s plan for them, from knowing God’s love for them, from accepting the invitation to become brothers and sisters of Christ.
Jesus is not saying God will punish them. Jesus is pointing out that they are suffering already. Jesus is pointing out that they are working so hard, that their hearts are too full of rubbish, that they have made things too complicated, precisely because they no longer recognise where they belong. They no longer know the way home, no longer recognise the voice of their Creator. Perhaps their pride is precisely their refusal to recognise their suffering, our refusal to recognise our deep poverty, our deep need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
But how close we are! How thin is the difference between heaven and hell. Listen again to our gospel. < Read gospel>
Jesus says that all is revealed to the children. The children who deal in reality because don’t know any better. The ones who cry when they are hurt. The ones who turn to their parents when they don’t understand the question. The ones who look to mum and dad to feed them. The ones who trust there is a point to the lesson, who believe there is a reason for the practice.
Jesus addresses his invitation to those who recognise their spiritual poverty, their anxiety, their needs. And he promises us peace. All we have to do is own up to our situation. All we have to do is seek out God in prayer. All we have to do is be honest in our relationship with God.
And Jesus promises us peace. Yes, we have to accept the yoke of his commandments. Yes, we have to say Amen to his teachings. But all this is love. All this discipline is simply the way to true life. As St Paul tells us, this is the only type of life that lasts. The only type of life that builds integrity. That makes us fit for eternity.
But what is absolutely central to this teaching is that this is the way to eternal life because this is who Jesus is. This is how Jesus is with the Father. He is the humble king who rides in on a donkey. He is the one who cries out to his Father in the garden and on the cross. He is the one who looks to his Father to feed him.
We must live like this because life is like this. Jesus is this life. There is no other type of life.
Let’s pray then for that simplicity of soul. Let’s pray then for that honesty in prayer. Let’s pray then for that poverty of spirit. Let’s offer all these things, believing that God can turn our nothing not just into something, but into Jesus, the Sabbath of Creation.