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I will give you restIn a small town, there were three Christian churches. There was an Evangelical, Baptist and a Catholic Church. The ministers and priest met once a year to have dinner and to talk about their ministry. Racoons had set up home in their respective church attics. The decided to meet next year and compare notes on how they had dealt with their unwelcome racoon visitors.

One year later at dinner, the evangelical preacher said they had formed a committee and decided they would build a slide from the roof so the racoons could leave. It turns out that their unwanted guests had so much fun they invited other racoons over and now, a year later, they had even more of them in the attic.

The Baptist minister stated that he did not have any luck either. It seems their congregation had decided to humanely capture the racoons and transport them out of town. Sure enough, by the next Sunday, the racoons had found their way back and they had brought even more of their friends and family with them. Therefore, the Baptists also had more critters in the attic than they had when the three pastors had met a year earlier.

They both looked at the priest from the Catholic Church who was smiling from ear to ear. He said their parish had solved the problem. He shared how they had captured the raccoons, he told them that he then baptized them and now they only came to the church at Christmas and Easter!

I chuckled at this story because it has a ring of truth to it. We have just completed the Easter Season and we have once again entered into this long stretch of Ordinary Time. I am sure you have all noticed that it is a bit less crowded at Sunday Mass.

While the crowds come to hear the Christmas and Easter stories, it is the stories about Jesus we experience during Ordinary Time that can transform our lives if we choose to understand and live them.

Over these coming weeks we will hear the Gospel, the Good News, according to Matthew.

Matthew is an interesting character. He is one of the original Apostles and his Hebrew name was Levi. He was minding his own business, and it was a profitable business being a tax collector, until one day he was “ambushed” by Jesus.

Jesus says to the tax collector, “Come Follow-me.” Matthew leaves everything and starts to follow this itinerant preacher.

What makes this scene remarkable is that Jesus would extend the invitation to Matthew in the first place. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been hated by the Jews and considered to be a sinner.

Matthew found the courage to leave everything he had to follow Jesus. The Gospel according to Matthew is an account of what most affected him on this journey.

In Matthew Chapter 11, from which today’s Gospel comes from, we find Jesus with his newly selected Apostles wandering around from village to village. While travelling they encounter followers of John the Baptist who have a question for Jesus from John, who is in prison.

It is a simple question: Are you the one or are we to expect another?

Today’s reading is the final part of this chapter and in it; Jesus gets to the point directly.

He tells us that He is the one. Our loving Father has sent him to help us carry our heavy burdens and if we trust in Him we will find rest, we will find peace.

Here we are 2000 years after Jesus shared these words with that crowd. The world today is a busy and at times a hostile place regardless of our age.

Over the past several months, I have met or talked to a number of people who are hurting because of the loss by suicide of someone close to them.

Why a person, especially a young person, contemplates taking his or her own life is a complex question and each situation is unique. There is no one answer or perhaps there is no answers at all to this question.

People who reach this stage often times feel that their burdens are so heavy they can no longer carry them. For many (not all) I would think that they did not have any real or at least a good understanding of our Mega-story (as Fr. Ron Rolheiser calls it) that is told in all the Gospels.

For me, and it maybe different for you, there are four Big (Mega) ideas that you will see played out before your eyes if you stick with this journey with Matthew through Ordinary Time. I would go as far to argue that these are the four non-negotiables of faith if you as a follower of the Christ want to be able to come to him to find rest, to experience the fullness of the peace of Christ:

Big Idea 1: You are the beloved of a loving God:

  • Brennen Manning in his book called Abba’s Child talks about how this sudden realization, that he was the child of this loving God, helped him return from the depths of his addiction to alcohol.
  • No matter what it is we have done (Prodigal Son) our loving Father will run to welcome us home.

Big Idea 2: Love of God/Self/Neighbour/ Enemy

  • Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all our heart. We also have to love ourselves. Jesus understands that we cannot give away what we do not have and the next part of the great commandment calls on us to love our neighbour.
  • That is all fine but how can we really Love our Enemy, which is another part of the story we will hear through this most ordinary of times.

Big Idea 3: Forgiveness

  • The Sermon on the Mount- Forgive us our trespasses in equal measure to the way we forgive others.
  • The demons of Guilt /Shame and Resentment/Anger are often the root causes of our burdens.

Big Idea 4: Inclusion- Open Table Fellowship

  • The gift of Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that when we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, when we reach out to the least of our Brothers and Sisters two things happen. We help to lessen their burden but Jesus knows that we too will have our burden’s lifted as we will benefit even more than the ones we are helping.

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Over these next weeks of ordinary time, I encourage you to find your Big Ideas from the stories about Jesus according to Matthew. Allow yourself to be ambushed by Christ in such a way that you come to trust him so completely that after each Mass you attend you know what it means to Go in Peace and you have the desire to glorify the Lord by the way you choose to live your life.

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