Dear Parishioners, While I am on my annual July vacation, I once more offer for your consideration a series of Reflections. This week’s reflection is by Rev. Rene McGraw, OSB, Associate Professor, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. —Msgr. Richard
Come to me, all you who labor…
In 1943, Franz Jägerstatter was decapitated in the Brandenburg- Görden prison. His crime: he refused to join the German army, though his bishop had told him he needn’t worry about the morality of the war. At the time of his execution, Franz was thirty-six years old, married with three daughters, all under the age of six.
Franz was one of the “little ones” to whom the Lord revealed himself. He had only a poor elementary education and surely would have no standing among the wise and the learned. When the conscription order for the army came, Franz’s bishop assured him that the church in Germany and Austria had decided it was moral for Catholics to participate in the war. But the uneducated Franz concluded he could not fight in the war. A month later he was executed.
Neither Franz nor Jesus were among the wise of the world. Largely uneducated beyond grade school, Franz was one of the simple ones. He was not unlike Jesus, who confounded the doctors in the temple despite having no formal schooling in the Law. He was not unlike the king of the first reading, who shall come to his people “meek and riding on a donkey.”
When we think of meekness, we might think of the kid who stands in the corner of the playground while the other boys make fun of him. Passive. Quiet. Just taking it.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “Come to me, all you who labor….Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart…” But we find ourselves thinking, “why would I want to come to someone who is meek and humble of heart?” When I am laboring and heavily burdened, I surely don’t want someone who is going to tell me to be quiet and meek. I want somebody who will fight for me. No milquetoast Jesus for me. I want the Jesus who took out a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple.
So who is this meek and humble Jesus to whom we should look for rest? Is it the Jesus who confronts the Pharisees and calls them a brood of vipers? Or is it the Jesus who says not a word before Pilate? Is it the Franz who says he will not serve? Or is it the Franz who doesn’t follow what his bishop says because he believes it is wrong? Who is the real Jesus? Who is the real Franz?
Without hesitation, without returning evil for evil—that’s real meekness. Never to run away. Never to be silent before evil. Never to hesitate to say the truth, come what may, whether the oppressor is a church leader, a bishop or pope; whether the unjust one is a president or a governor, a teacher or a bully on the playground. That’s meekness. That’s the way we find rest and peace for our souls.
When we come to Jesus in the Eucharist, that Jesus will give rest to our souls but only if—like Franz—we speak the truth with a quiet heart. May it be so! —Rene McGraw, OSB