Zec 9: 9-10; Mt 11: 25-30
If you’re anything like me, at times you probably have a hard time asking for help. Maybe it’s my own insecurities and fears, as to what people would think and perceive weakness, but I’ve come to believe that it’s just so often a part of who we are, as people, culture, and society. I used to think it was my age; when you’re young you think you can do it all without anyone else! Then I’ve met many older people along the way, especially at that moment when they have to give up their drivers license, who struggle greatly with giving up that independence. As Americans, I believe it’s hardwired into us. On this weekend when we celebrate our Independence, it’s important to be grateful for the gift, but at the same time, when we take it to the extreme, it too has a dark side, a shadow side to it that we often don’t want to see or pay attention to it. In our world we are led to believe, and we buy into the lie, that we don’t need anyone else or anything else! All the talk of atheism and lack of belief only points to a people that believes the lie that I don’t need anything bigger than myself. Yet, we will always have that independence, yet, at the same time, there will be a part of us that depends on something larger, God. If we’re honest with ourselves, it creates a great deal of anxiety in our lives believing this way.
It’s not easy being on top, number one, invincible and untouchable, the chosen ones. Just ask the Israelites and their history. They were the “chosen” ones, and is so often the case, when they reach that point when they feel they no longer need God or faith or mystery or whatever word you want to describe it as, it often next leads to the fall. It leads to war, it leads to the exodus, and it leads to exiles, desert experiences, left wondering what happened. It takes great humility to grow from such an experience and so often they don’t. We hear from the prophetic voices throughout the year, today from Zechariah, who, following exile, shows them the promise of the coming Messiah. That, even though they reached the point where they had forgotten God, this God had not forgotten His people. Out of the mess that they created, a Messiah will arise; not the one they wanted or expected or even desired, but rather one that would show them a still more perfect way of life. Restoration would happen from a God with the greatest intentions for His people. A Messiah, who once again, would show them where it is they came from and humble their hearts of all pride that got them to the desert to begin!
And so that Messiah comes in the person of Jesus. We hear in today’s Gospel the raising up of the child-like. So often we hear him use children, the poor, those in need, the sick and struggling, the vulnerable. They so desire independence and yet remain dependent on others on something bigger, faith that sees them through. It becomes a dance between independence and dependence. He tries to convey that to the Pharisees who too thought they didn’t need anyone or anything else. They had the law and that was enough. But it led to abuse and taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable, leaving them into greater slavery. They had forgotten where they came from and hope to return. They thought they were “God”, pride gets in the way, and then the fall. It makes it quite difficult for those who spend their lives in luxury, having it all, needing no one or anything, because it feels as if there is a lot to lose, and it does feel that way; but all you lose is yourself in the process and open yourself up to something more.
The invitation today is for all of us, “Come to me all you who labor and are burden and I will give you rest.” Despite the American way that I can do it all and need no one or anything else, that approach on life is quite exhausting. We eventually get pushed to the limits and learn it’s not true, or at times, live in denial of it all. Life can be quite burdensome when we do it alone and take our independence to the extreme. As long as we are alive, there will be a dance. We will always desire that independence that we give thanks for this weekend, but at the same time, there will always be that child within who is dependent, meek and humble of heart, vulnerable and poor, seeking to be free. We pray this weekend to be humbled in such a way that we may be freed of our pride and all that stands in the way of the dance. We pray that we never forget where we have come from and hope to return, allowing ourselves to be humbled daily to living with and through our own meek and humble hearts.