Christ Brings Peace

July 9, 2017: 14th Sunday in OT

Zechariah 9:9-10
Psalms 145:1-2, 8-11, 13
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

There are two kinds of leaders in the world. There are those who use other people to get what they want. As well as those who sacrifice themselves to bring prosperity to others.

Jesus is the second kind of leader.

Today’s First Reading expresses this beautifully. It is a prophecy describing the Messiah, God’s promised Savior, Israel’s great king, who will come and rescue Israel from idolatry and foreign oppression. The description presents a vivid, poetic comparison between the leadership style of this promised Messiah and that of the pagan kings who have conquered and ruled Israel for so long. The Messiah enters Jerusalem on a donkey, an animal considered noble in ancient Palestine, but an animal ridden by judges and rabbis, by those who brought order and justice to society. This Messiah, the prophet goes on to describe, will banish chariots and horses — instruments of war used by the pagan conquerors and symbolizing oppression, injustice, and violence.

Jesus himself, in today’s Gospel passage, explains His leadership style in the same way.

He invites the crowds to come to Him, to follow and obey Him, so that He can “give them rest.” He will never force us to labor and carry heavy burdens just for His own gratification, as selfish, power-hungry leaders do. Instead, Jesus invites us to walk by His side, uniting our crosses to His cross, as if He and we were harnessed to the same yoke. Yes, we will have to work and suffer in this life, but when we do so united to Christ, it all has a purpose; it is all leading us somewhere. Therefore, instead of oppressing, depressing, and frustrating our souls, bearing crosses with Christ brings us deep satisfaction and peace of mind even in the midst of life’s trials.

It is possible that interior peace is in even shorter supply now than in previous periods of history. The modern world is flooded with powerful sources of external stimulation — images, sounds, media, and communications technologies travel… Just because we are followers of Christ, we are not exempt from the onslaughts of stress, fear, and anxiety that can come from this perpetual noise and activity. Each time we find ourselves under attack, we need to hear Christ’s gentle voice: “take my yoke upon you, and I will give you rest.”

St Augustine of Canterbury faced a rather large anxiety attack that almost changed the course of European history. He was the abbot of a monastery in Rome in the 6th Century A.D. The Pope chose him to lead a group of forty monks on a missionary journey to England. They set out obediently and confidently. However, when they reached northern France, the locals regaled them with frightening stories of the unpredictable waters of the English Channel and the fierce temperament of the Anglo-Saxon tribes in England. Augustine was so disturbed that he left his group of monks on the French side of the English Channel and traveled all the way back to Rome to make sure the pope wanted him to go through with it. The pope reassured him, gave him his blessing, and St Augustine’s mission met with historic success, helping to turn England into a dynamic bastion of Christianity in the midst of the barbarian invasions.

Problems and worries are, from Christ’s perspective, new opportunities for us to put on His yoke, so that He can give us new and deeper experiences of His peace.

Christ brings peace to our souls.

We have all experienced Christ’s peace, at least a little bit.

Is there anything we can do to experience it more steadily, securely, and deeply? “Learn from me,” Jesus tells us, “For I am meek and humble of heart.” Meekness is one of the secrets to experiencing Christ’s peace.

However, what is meekness, and how can we exercise it?

Meekness is not weakness, though subconsciously we confuse the two, because they sound alike.

Meekness is the uncommon strength that enables us to treat other people with patience, respect, and kindness, even in the two circumstances when that is almost impossible to do: First, when they do not deserve it. Second, when we do not feel like it. Jesus was meek, because even when people abused Him, mocked Him, tortured Him, unjustly condemned Him, and lied about Him, He never lost His cool. He never lashed out at others to get back at them or to put them in their place. Even when He criticized the Pharisees, He did so out of love, trying to convince them to change the direction of their lives. As He hung on the cross, He did not condemn or disdain them, He forgave them.

When we follow His example of meekness, it allows Christ’s peace to spread in our hearts, because it frees us from being infected by the anger and pettiness oozing out of other people’s selfish hearts.

Today, Jesus will once again prove His own meekness and love by coming to us in Holy Communion, in spite of our many failings, sins, and distractions.

When He does, let’s tell Him how much we long for His peace, and ask Him to lay His restful yoke of meekness upon us.

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