July 9, 2017
The first part of this text, verses 25-27, is also found in Luke’s gospel. (Luke 10:21-22) Therefore scholars believe that it comes from an older source that both Luke and Matthew used as they composed their gospels. The style of the text is different than what is found in most of the synoptic gospels. It is more like what is found in John’s gospel. The second part of this text is unique to Matthew.
In Jesus’ day, the rich would become “patrons” of others who were not members of their family. The patron would treat these clients as if they were members of the family. In some cases, the “patron” would use an agent who would act on their behalf to arrange the relationship. This relationship benefited both the patron and the client. The client received the benefits of being included in the patron’s family, which was usually a significantly more prosperous situation, and the patron received the esteem of the community. The client was expected to make the generosity of the patron known. There was no “not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing” here. In Jesus’ culture, esteem or honor was so important that it was considered foolish to have the wealth to become a patron and not do so. That is the point of the parable that Jesus tells of the foolish landowner who had the wealth, but instead of taking on clients, decided to build larger barns so he could store up his wealth and not have to work. (Luke 12:16-20)
Looking at this gospel through the patron/client cultural lens, God the Father is the patron, those who are burdened are the clients, and Jesus is described as the broker/agent for the Father. In the first verse of this gospel text, God is described as “Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” The Father is being described as one who is responsible for bringing all of creation into existence. Verses 26 and 27 describe Jesus as the One the Father has chosen to act as His agent. The Father has sent Jesus to those who “labor and are burdened.” They are invited to take a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. It is an invitation to a relationship with God, the creator of the universe, who desires to make them part of God’s family and not a slave of some earthly master.
- How would you describe your personal prayer?
- What happens within you when you praise God?
- If you were asked to design a set for a children’s play depicting God in heaven as Lord of creation, what would it look like?
- Jesus talks about God as having “hidden these things from the wise and the learned,” yet revealing them to “the childlike.” What do you think he is trying to tell us?
- Can you recall occasions in the gospels when Jesus invited those who were burdened to come, and to find rest?
- If Jesus has sent us, as the Father has sent him, what is your role to those who are burdened?
- How is your relationship with God a yoke? What would you like to say to God about that yoke today?
- When was the last time you can recall feeling burdened or worried? Where did you find rest?
Can you take time to talk with God about your relationship to God, especially the places where you have felt burdened, and those times when you have felt like God was helping you find rest?
The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.