In one of his first sermons (and how refreshing it is to hear a pope actually preaching in simple, uncomplicated, challenging language!) Pope Francis warned about the danger of a...
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 11: 25 – 30] Jesus makes a statement that, at first sight, I thought had not always been easily evident to me. “ For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” True or false? Taken on its own and in isolation from the other verses of this Gospel extract I could honestly callfoul! There have been various ‘happenings’, crises, events and unpleasant challenges which have not been immediately recognisable as either easy or light!
The key to this dilemma is, firstly, to be found in the verse immediately before where we read “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Here we face an
invitation. Unless, as a first response, I TAKE the yoke – and begin to work within its confines – nothing is going to be easy or light. In addition, an essential element of taking the yoke is an acceptance of the need for me to LEARN FROM HIM! We need to recall from a few weeks ago that theWAY of Jesus is the MANNER in which he lived and went through the ‘downs’ as well as the ‘ups’ of his life and living.
In the second instance, we must note the verse which speaks about the Lord who chooses to revealthe ‘way’ of the Father to us. It is in our accepting of the yoke together with a willingness to learn (be receptive) the Gospel approach to the specific challenges which begins the process of living in and through difficult and painful circumstances.
Then there is a need for us not to be too ‘clever’ and ‘sophisticated’ in our appraisement of situations. We must be willing to learn that very often our own initial reactions make it so difficult for us to see beyond the immediate – as well as becoming aware that, at times, the ‘happenings’ are of our own making. Finally, never forget Jesus’ other invitation recorded in our Gospel extract – “come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The only way we are able to take the yoke and learn from him is to go to him. Far too often it is when all else has failed, that we begin to think it may well be a good idea to start going to him. The labour and the loadhave clouded our vision – have become all-consuming.
Here, in passing, a thought which some may find helpful. The Old Testament reading for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ which, as I type these lines, we celebrate tomorrow contains the words
“You shall remember … the way the Lord your God has led you … in the wilderness … testing you to know what was in your heart … and you shall remember the Lord your God.” As we reflect on our Gospel extract, we need to remember the times when we have, indeed, been led by our God when we were in the wilderness. What is reallyin our hearts when we respond to the wilderness times which do come in our lives? Do we take the yoke willingly and open ourselves to learn from him?
Let us add a general message to our reflection. We must avoid the debilitating mistake of only taking up the yoke when we find ourselves in the wilderness areas of life and living. His yoke is intended to be a daily taking up of Gospel values applied always and everywhere. It must be a well-established habit of our living – so well established that it has become a comfortable and well-worn accessory of our Christian discipleship.
This week we have, in large measure, confined ourselves to our Gospel reading. This is so because my experience is that this too often easily read extract sparks queries about what Jesus is really saying. Too often it is misunderstood.
Much of what has been said so far finds a clear resonance in
TODAY’S PSALM [145 or 144]. There we read – “I will bless you day after day … the Lord is kind and full of compassion … good to all … compassionate … supports all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.” Surely these lines fit the Gospel message of taking up the yoke as a daily habit? In addition they should also provide real encouragement.
It may be useful if we accept that real peace and happiness is not getting what we want but, rather in wanting we have got.
We should not end this reflection without a summary look at
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 8: 9. 11 – 13]. If we, at times, are tempted not to place our living IN the Lord’s yoke then there are real indications that we are confining ourselves to the fleshand are not “in the Spirit.” Notice that I have (above) used the phrase ‘in the Lord’s yoke’ and not under it. This is deliberate because Saint Paul, today, tells us that we are “not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit.” ‘Under the yoke’ has, for me, the sense of being under the whip! We should never see ourselves as under the Lord’s whip. He has no whip in dealing with us (look at today’s Psalm)!
We have to be
IN THE YOKE, get down to getting ourselves INTO it and feel comfortable in and with it. Then, it becomes possible for the Lord, as today’s Gospel promises, to reveal the Father to us. He finds it impossible to reveal anything to us when we are out of the yoke (“in the flesh”).