The Gospel reading for July 3 has a passage from Matthew (11.25-30). It is the beloved passage where Jesus says "Come to me, all you who weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Our Lord was extending an invitation to follow him and be obedient to his words.
From the writings of the saints and testimonies of countless Christians throughout the centuries, we know these words of Jesus are true. Although Jesus was addressing Jews suffering under the weight of unnecessary religious responsibilities of the Pharisees, his invitation was, and remains, open to all.
Resting in the love of Christ has lightened the burdens that I have encountered. Why? He is the hope of mankind, the Alpha and Omega - the consummation of all things seen and unseen. As well, Christ is the truth in whom millions of spiritually burdened people have found rest and peace, ever since Christ made that promise.
Our Lord's words carry an echo of the first beatitude found earlier in Matthew's Gospel: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." Those who carry heavy spiritual burdens are often the same people who are poor in spirit.
Why would the poor in spirit be blessed? It flies in the face of worldly thinking. We live in a self-centred time that promotes hollow self-esteem and self-exaltation.
Well, people who know they are poor in spirit usually know their utter need for something more than themselves. Their abject internal poverty can make them seek God's mercy. They understand their need of forgiveness and they dare to imagine they can be right with God. They find the answer to their seeking in the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, through faith that the cross can settle their problem of sin.
Never underestimate the restorative power found in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Spiritual blindness can fall from the eyes of a darkened human heart burdened by the weight of sin. The first rays of Christ's light can break through the heart of darkness as a direct response to the first inklings of new faith.
Christ became poor so that we might become rich. He died that we may live. He conquered death so that we can experience resurrection too.
The poor in spirit are closer than they think to another of the Beatitudes - that of becoming "clean of heart." Christ said, "Blessed are clean of heart, for they shall see God." The kingdom of God (heaven) is where humanity sees God clearly for all eternity. St. Paul said, "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13.12).
The kingdom of God is not just our possession at some point in the future. It begins here and now as we humbly detach ourselves of earthly interests in favour of an ever-closer attachment and devotion to Christ. Earthly things are used for the pursuit of a perfect charity, furthering the Gospel and the glory of God.
In reference to "Blessed are the poor in spirit," the Church teaches that the Beatitudes "reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the kingdom already belongs" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2546).
The rich rely on their own self-sufficiency and abundance. It is the poor in spirit who look to God for their hope instead of to the world. In doing so, they are surprised to find true happiness. The Catechism assures us that as the poor in spirit devote themselves to God with complete abandon, they find themselves free from anxieties about tomorrow. Then it says, "Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God."
At a personal level, I have been given opportunities to witness for Christ to other incurably ill people and their families. My wheelchair allows me entrance into their grief, their fears and their sorrows. I tell them how Christ abides with me in the poverty of my physical circumstances. He is leading me home and restores my hope and lessens my earthly burdens. He can do the same for them.
God can reveal himself to us even at our points of deepest anguish - when our burdens seem too heavy to be borne. We can go to Christ. He will give us rest.