“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
This is a beautiful promise from Jesus, but what exactly did he just promise us? I don’t think he is telling us that life will be easy when we follow him. There are other Gospel passages where he warns us that we will have to take up our cross to follow him, or when he tells the rich young man to sell all that he has to follow him, or all sorts of other times when he talks about the seriousness of belonging to him. And especially right now, I don’t think any of us in this particular year would say that life is easy as we live through a pandemic. The life of a Christian is not a promise of a restful life free of labors and burdens. Labors and burdens in that sense are the things of the world and not what I think are minds should be focused upon when hearing this Gospel. Remember… St. Paul told us in the second reading that we are not in the flesh and do not live according to the flesh, but are in the spirit. In the spirit we are called to be meek and humble like Jesus himself, to be the little ones that follow after him.
So again, this is a promise from Christ given to us, so what does he offer? In my mind Jesus telling us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light is much more directly about what he says just before hand. “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Christ chose to reveal the Father to us. Through no merit of our own, God chose to reveal Himself to us through His Son. It’s not that we have learned about Jesus and know his story, it’s that we know him, that we have a real, living, human relationship with him. We don’t lead a life of discipleship because our parents did, or follow our vocations because that’s where life took us, or adhere to a life of morality because it is logical… we do all that because in some way we have encountered a person, because Jesus Christ is known not just to our minds but to our hearts.
Imagine trying to live a Christian life without having had that personal encounter with Christ, if Catholicism to you was rules and obligations and not the experience of passion and love and salvation. What a burden! This is why the yoke is easy and the burden is light. It’s not a heavy burden to love with the unbounded love of Christ when you have a relationship with him that fires your heart. And how much easier that light burden becomes with the yoke that is the grace of Christ and our surrender to him.
This is the assurance that we find in today’s Gospel: that the difficulties which we face in practicing a life of faith and the responsibilities that we know we must take up as disciples… we do these things understanding why. We do them knowing who the Father is. We are not kept in the darkness of blind obedience but instead we have had a love revealed to us that asks us to turn and love others; we have a fire in our hearts that compels us imitate what has been revealed to us. You don’t have to be a Christian to sacrifice your life in love… but how much more meaning, how much easier it is, when that yoke of Christ is upon your shoulders. I cannot stand here and tell you that there will be no burdens in your life… but I will tell you that the burden of faith has meaning, and that we have been taught to take it up in love.
“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.