Fourteenth Sunday: Following Christ, Meek and Humble of Heart

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‘Come to me all you that are weary and are heavy laden, 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’ (Mt. 11:29-30).

With these words Our Lord invites us to conform ourselves to His Sacred Heart and in so doing, this simple invitation tells us everything we need to know about God and about ourselves. Our Lord reveals Himself as a Teacher whom we can imitate; and by consequence, we are disciples who can learn from Him. This divine initiative, since it comes from God, affirms our human nature because at the natural level, it is necessary for us to learn skills to survive and prosper. This is a self-evident truth. A humble heart is a docile heart. Generally speaking, docility is the willingness and capacity we have of being able to learn something we did not know…docility also means our recognition that we do not know many things; that we need the help of others, wiser than we are, to learn most of what we know (Fr. James Schall). This is true of most knowledge and it is especially true of knowledge of religious truth. Docility necessarily implies that we approach learning with humility. A teacher cannot teach unless someone is willing to be taught.

This brings us to the heart of the matter when it comes to learning and receiving the truths of our faith. ‘My sheep hear my voice’.  Docility enables us both to learn and to recognise the voice of the Shepherd of whom the Prophet Isiah said: Here is my Servant, whom I uphold…He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish (Is. 42:1-3). The school of Christian discipleship is not harsh; it is gentle and it is marked by humility, gentleness, charity, docility, compassion and truth. These are the hallmarks of true Christian discipleship. ‘Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart’ (Mt. 11:29). Humility is the mistress of all the virtues. Consequently, we learn to pray, to practice the virtues; we grow in the spiritual life just as we endeavour to grow and mature intellectually and morally. We live as we pray because we pray as we live.

To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. These are the wise words of St. John Henry Newman, whose own spiritual journey to the fullness of the truth and to the Heart of Jesus was like our own spiritual journey, a passage from shadows and images to the truth (ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem). Where do we learn these saving truths? Principally at the celebration of the sacred liturgy which is both the school and feast of faith; and also in the practice of private, personal prayer; the habit of which is greatly aided by praying the psalms in some form daily prayer that enables us to sanctify at the very least the beginning and end of each day. (E.g. The St. Benedict’s Prayer Book).

We rightly understand this word liturgy in a very specific manner. In the New Testament the word ‘liturgy’ refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity. In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbour. In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one ‘leitourgos’; she shares in Christ’s priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity) (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1070).  This threefold aspect of our worship engages the whole person and we may easily summarize it with three simple words, adore, imitate, and repair: If we only understood this, we would not be so easily distracted by programs that do little to deepen our appreciation of our first obligation of humble adoration of the Triune God in Christ.

Year in and year out we celebrate the Mystery of Christ; Sunday after Sunday and on the great Feasts of the Church we submit to the Mystery of God not in bondage but in a transformative communion that brings about our growth in holiness or Christian perfection. Our Lord assures us: No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (Jn.15:15). It is here, in the encounter with the Living God that He reveals everything to us: the truth about Himself, the truth about the human person and our purpose.

The unity of faith and life or what may be termed integrity or integration of life is our goal, no matter how old or young; it is the work of a lifetime. True theology, that is to say, a correct understanding of the nature of God, is both the cause and the sign of human sanity. If we contradict divine Revelation and the Church’s Tradition we end up in sheer insanity, as we are sadly experiencing today; and we risk losing ourselves and what is worse, our eternal salvation.

The way of Christian discipleship which we have undertaken to follow individually and collectively is a journey to the Heart of God. Our Lord issues His invitation in the Gospel today: 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. In a treatise on Christian perfection Saint Gregory of Nyssa observes: Our life is stamped with the beauty of His thought….The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behaviour. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing in the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life (The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. III, p. 396). Anointed for service, and sharing in His mission as Priest, Prophet and King, we actively cooperate in the work of salvation; our own and that of the whole world. What a privilege it is for us to be one with Christ Our Lord in His saving work. May our devout and reverent reception of the Holy Eucharist draw us ever more intimately into Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart; King and centre of all hearts.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.