Life and the scriptures frequently stand in stark contrast to one another. Which shall we believe, and where does wisdom for living lie?
Today’s Gospel passage includes three elements: a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has revealed, a statement proclaiming Jesus’ identity and finally an invitation to turn to Jesus.
While today’s text has strong comfort appeal to anyone who is burdened or suffering under life’s heavy demands, the original sense of the passage is quite specific. Biblical Scholars identify these texts as coming from the "wisdom tradition" of the Hebrew bible. God is offering a new wisdom to those who open their hearts to hear his word.
The theme of intimate revelation to a chosen few and the Son's privileged knowledge of his Father are prominent in the Old Testament. The Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus seem to be an influence on the beautiful words that conclude today's Gospel. The compassion of Jesus invites the weary and burdened to come to find rest in Him. In Ecclesiasticus, the Jewish Law is personified and offers an almost identical invitation to those who seek God's will.
Jesus offers a promise; the promise of rest, of peace - not as the world gives peace but as the Spirit gives peace; perhaps not for today; but for the day when our hearts can be open to accept it.
Jesus is God's new "law." He is more than Israel expected. A new beatitude surfaces in Matthew's narration: Happy is the one who does not find Jesus an obstacle. His yoke is easy to those who accept it. His burden is no oppressive network of legal prescriptions, but the joy of a single call to love.
The wisdom Jesus offers is not a series of teachings, things we must learn or achieve through our own pursuits. The wisdom he offers is not book knowledge, but a Person - himself. We come to that wisdom by following and staying close to him; observing his actions; listening to his words; imitating him and seeing the world from his perspective. That’s what makes the disenfranchised wise and those who claim they know everything, foolish. Quite a twist; but it is a Gospel twist: the wise are foolish, and the “little ones” wise; or put in another way, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Wisdom demands a choice. Jesus was “meek and humble of heart” because he chose to be that way. Meekness seems like a useless and impossible virtue in our modern world with all its weapons and aggressions. But the Gospel today invites us to meekness and humility: disarming our own hearts; not returning anger against anger; but by using our personal authority to stand with the powerless and those deprived of a chance for a full life.