daily biblical sermons

Jesus gives rest to those that labor and are heavy laden with guilt for their sins, when they come to him with faith
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 19, 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-11, Psalm 102, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 11:25-30


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:27b-30).



Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a day on which we commemorate and celebrate the love of Jesus for us in his great desire to save us from our sins if only we would come to him with faith and humility and beg his forgiveness and rest for our souls. God wants us to live through his Son, drawing peace for our souls and eternal life from him, as St. John says in today’s second reading, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9 NKJV).



We live through him by the propitiation that he made for us by sacrificing himself to the Father in love on the cross. In doing so he suffered our punishment for our sins for us as our substitute, as St. John says today, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NKJV). He propitiated God for our sins, at the Father’s initiative, by satisfying his justice on our behalf in suffering our punishment for our sins for us on the cross.



Jesus says today, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). During Jesus’s lifetime, no one knew him or his mission or how he would carry it out, except the Father. No one but the Father knew that he was sent into the world to be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), for “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) so that our sins might be punished in his flesh on the cross (Romans 8:3-4) instead of in our flesh.



Who knew this mystery except the Father? Then, through Jesus’ teachings and through experiencing his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Spirit finally illuminated the minds and hearts of Jesus’ disciples to understand his mission in the world and thereby their own mission as well, as continuing his mission in the world.



Since Jesus has worked this marvelous salvation for us, he tells us today, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Who are those “who labor and are heavy laden”? They are us ungodly sinners who wonder if God can ever forgive someone like me. They are those that are burdened with guilt for sin, whom only Christ can relieve. Jesus does not invite the righteous, but sinners who are suffering from guilt for their sins to come to him and find rest for their souls. Christ does not require that we first get our act together before coming to him. Rather he tells us to come as we are, heavy laden.



Jesus “interposes no hard conditions. He speaks nothing of works to be done first, and deservingness of His gifts to be established. He only asks us to come to Him just as we are, with all our sins, and to submit ourselves like little children to his teaching” (JC Ryle, 1856, emphasis added).



Who are the people that Jesus in his love has come for and calls to come to him? These are the ones “that are weary of the slavery of sin and Satan, and of the love of the world and the pursuit of its vanities, and desire and labor after a state of reconciliation and peace with God, and rest in him; and who, till they enjoy these blessings, are heavy laden with a sense of the guilt and power of their sins, and of the displeasure of God due to them on account thereof” (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821).



And what will Jesus give to these sin sick souls? He says to them in effect, “And I – I alone (for no one else can) will give you freely (what you cannot purchase) rest, namely, from the guilt of sin by justification, and from the power of sin by sanctification; rest, from a sense of the wrath of God and an accusing conscience, in peace with God and peace of mind; rest, from all carnal affections, and fruitless worldly cares, disquietudes, and labors, in the love of God shed abroad in your hearts; and rest in the midst of the afflictions, trials, and troubles of life, in a full assurance that all things shall work for your good, and that, though in the world you may have tribulation, in me you shall have peace” (Joseph Benson, some archaic punctuation slightly revised).



Who should come to Christ? “All ye that labor, and are heavy laden; meaning, not these who are laboring in the service of sin and Satan, are laden with iniquity, and insensible of it: these are not weary of sin, nor burdened with it; nor do they want or desire any rest for their souls; but such as groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin upon their consciences … These are encouraged to come to him, lay down their burdens at his feet, look to, and lay hold by faith on his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice” (John Gill, 1697-1771).



How will Jesus give us rest for our souls? He will say to us, “And I will give you rest; spiritual rest here, peace of conscience, ease of mind, tranquility of soul, through an application of pardoning grace, a view of free justification by the righteousness of Christ, and full atonement of sin by his sacrifice; and eternal rest hereafter, in Abraham’s bosom, in the arms of Jesus, in perfect and uninterrupted communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit” (John Gill).



I have quoted more classical commentaries today than I usually do, for they are so centrally focused on the fundamental, basic Christian mystery of salvation and are so eloquent in their exposition of it. And this is truly the meaning of today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, where we focus on his saving love for sinners, for he said many times, “I came not to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17).



This is the message that Christians are sent out into the world to proclaim. It is the basic gospel message, the kerygma, the apostolic proclamation of God’s salvation now available in his Son Jesus Christ, through faith in him, because of his atoning death for our sins on the cross. Living in this mystery, that is, living through Jesus Christ, as our first reading says today, is a transforming experience that believers are sent into the whole world to make available to all mankind, not just through the example of their life, but, where possible, through the actual proclamation of the good news (the gospel) which tells of God’s saving act in the death and resurrection of his Son and how it impacts those that believe in him. Preaching this to others and inviting them to put their faith in this mystery and to trust in Christ for their salvation from their sins will enable all that do so to live through him, as Jesus says today, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9 NKJV).



This, I believe, is what today’s feast is all about, and I have tried to express it in biblical terms, for this is how the love of God has been revealed and manifested to us through Christ. It is through his saving mystery, through the work that he has done for us on the cross, when we put our faith in him, that God counts his suffering and death as though they were our own suffering and death in punishment for our sins. Therefore God sees that in Christ we have already paid our debt of suffering and death that we owe him in punishment for our sins, and so he acquits us of them and declares us righteous. This is the mystery of justification through faith, because of Christ’s saving work on the cross.


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