We must never forget that the Gospel that Christ preached was a Gospel of compassion and love and simplicity. In the text set before us today Jesus explains that his message is a very simple one that can be understood very well by children and ordinary people. However, so called sophisticated people are much more likely to misunderstand his words and find problems with his teaching.
Many people down the centuries have over complicated the Gospel. They have believed that it contains secret messages or felt that its strictures are burdensome and can only be followed by an elite group. But we know that this is not so. We understand that the Gospel message is an entirely simple one and that what it consists in is nothing other than love. Love for God and love for our neighbour. We understand that what God wants above everything else is for us to overcome our own selfishness and to love with a completely open heart.
We find that some of the greatest saints lived lives of utter simplicity. Just take, for example, St Theresa of Lisieux who gave an incredible amount of attention to the simplest of actions. There are many others such as St Benedict Joseph Labre or Blessed Charles de Foucauld who will be canonised soon. Both of these gave up on normal life and threw themselves on God’s Providence; Benedict Joseph Labre living like a tramp and Charles de Foucauld living as a hermit in the Sahara Desert. These three saints were unsophisticated and lived utterly simple lives but focusing themselves on loving God and their neighbours in the human family.
The last three sentences in this extract from St Matthew’s Gospel record some of the most compassionate words that Jesus ever uttered. Jesus holds out his hand to those who are overburdened by the cares of life. He is speaking to those who are experiencing troubles of every kind. He is reaching out to those bothered by illness whether it be physical or mental, he speaks to those experiencing difficulties in their relationships or with their finances. His words are directed at those who are burdened with troubles of every kind.
He tells them to learn from him; he tells them to look at the world as he sees it with eyes of gentleness and humility. And he offers them rest and comfort, peace and tranquillity. These are certainly therefore words of deep compassion and love. They are directed at the straightforward and ordinary people of our world. They are directed at the unsophisticated and the simple and he wants them to realise that he values and appreciates them greatly and he wants them to be close to him and to find in him the source of healing and of love.
It is plain that Christ has less time for those who live over-complicated lives; those who are caught up in impressing others or those who put their trust in material things. According to Christ, these people need to realise that simplicity is more important than sophistication, dependence better than dominance, love better than fame or glory.
Yes, Christ wears a yoke but, as he says so well, his yoke is easy and his burden is light. So, let us adopt that yoke and walk with him on the journey of life being sure that with him by our side we walk the way of love and trust and hope.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket