Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
COME TO ME
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to trust ourselves in the Lord and to follow Him, and not to be easily swayed by worldly temptations and pressures, or by sufferings and trials that we may encounter in our path. We should not be easily swayed and distracted by the lies of the devil and all those seeking our downfall, masking their traps and dangers by false promises of comfort and pleasures in life.
In our first reading today, we heard the Lord and His calling of Moses to be His servant and as the leader of His people, the Israelites. God called Moses at Mount Horeb from a miraculously burning bush, calling on him to go to the land of Egypt and to speak to the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let the people of Israel go free. Moses was unsure and he was afraid that the people would reject him. But God reassured him and told him that he must reveal Who He was before the assembly of the people, and they would know that God had sent Moses into their midst.
God also reassured His people through Moses, by telling Moses to proclaim to the people the promises of God’s faithfulness to the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would not abandon His people in their hour of need, and He would show His might and power before the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, that if they would not let the people of Israel go free, then they would see the might and power of God, and by His hand, the Israelites would be set free.
That was what eventually happened in history, as the Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let the people of Israel go free. As such, God sent ten great plagues to Egypt through Moses, and after enduring all the sufferings and pains, the Pharaoh and the Egyptians finally let the Israelites to go free. And when the Pharaoh attempted at the last hour to try to bring the Israelites back again, God opened the sea before all of His people, and crushed the armies and the chariots of Egypt under the waves of the sea.
God has shown His love and faithfulness to His people, and He has proven, time and again, His love and dedication to them. But at the same time, He also called on them all to embrace His Law and His path, as the Covenant which He made with their ancestors and thereafter renewed, entailed the commitment from both parties in the Covenant. Just as God has been faithful to the Covenant He made; the people of Israel were also expected to be faithful to the Lord in all things. This is the ‘yoke’ that they had to bear, in being faithful and resisting the temptations and pleasures of life.
Thus, this is what has been mentioned in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus told the disciples and others, to come and seek Him, all those who were weary and heavily burdened, as in Him they would find rest and succour, comfort and true joy in the end. At the same time, the Lord also mentioned that His yoke is easy and light, and His kindness and love prevail over all things. This serves as a very important reminder for us that following God as His faithful ones do not mean that we are not to suffer or to endure sorrow and difficulties.
Instead, just as the Lord Himself often highlighted to His disciples, that being a faithful follower of His would lead to conflict and disagreements, even divisions and plenty of challenges and trials. As they commit themselves to Him and His way, there would be those who refused to align themselves to Him, and therefore, led to persecutions, even violence and hatred against those who believe in the Lord and committed themselves to Him. This is the yoke that we have to bear, that is to be faithful even against the opposition of the world and against the temptations of worldly pleasures.
Today, all of us are reminded of this need for us to be faithful and committed to God, and not to be easily swayed by worldly temptations, so that we may grow ever stronger in our faith. And we can look upon the examples set by St. Bonaventure, our holy predecessor in faith, a great bishop, Cardinal and declared Doctor of the Church for his many important contributions to the Church and the faith, and for his dedication to the Lord and to His people. St. Bonaventure was very much involved in the reforms of the Church of his time.
He was a member of the Franciscan order, one of its earliest members, and a renowned expert on Church teachings and theology. He wrote extensively and had many publications and works attributed to him, and he was also active in the governance of the Church, being also entrusted to be one of the princes of the Church as a Cardinal, supporting the Pope in his efforts to reform the Church and in encouraging the unity and development of the Church. Through his many works and contributions, St. Bonaventure has shown us what it truly means to be a follower and disciple of Christ.
Are we then able to commit ourselves in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able and willing to follow the Lord and focus ourselves on Him as we continue to embark on our journey of life? Let us all turn towards Him with renewed faith and conviction from now on, that in all things we will always seek the Lord and bear the burdens and yoke we have to wear as Christians with joy, as we know that in the end, we will triumph with God, and gain eternal glory and true joy with Him. May God bless us always, in our every good works and endeavours. Amen.
By Rev Fr. Peter Canisius