Sunday, July 06, 2008

14th Sunday - homily

“My yoke is easy, and my burden light”. How many times have we heard this saying of our Lord’s and wondered, ‘what is a yoke?’ Is it an egg yolk? No, it’s a harness which joins two animals together, mainly oxen. We are familiar with a harness for a horse; well, this is for two animals. I was hoping to use a yoke as a prop and do a little show-and-tell, but I didn’t know where the nearest yoke store is. So, I guess just describing it will do! So, it’s a harness that joins together two animals, mainly oxen. We know that oxen are called “beasts of burden”. Why does Jesus use the image of a yoke and it’s burdens?

In biblical terms, “yoke” referred to the Mosaic Law. The Law of Moses consisted of 613 laws! It could have presented a burden for people to live. On top of that, the Scribes and Pharisees had very strict interpretations of the Mosaic Law. They placed great burdens of people with the law and didn’t help them. Jesus says in Matthew 23 that the Scribes and Pharisees laid many burdens “on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (v. 4). Jesus is different in that while he does have a demanding law – he fulfills the Law of Moses – he helps people to live the law. He is the King and Savior who is meek that the first reading describes. His yoke is easy and his burden light because he is with his people to help them with their yokes and burdens.

To understand how this applies to our lives, I’d like to go through three situations with the example of forgiveness. The first situation involves someone who has given control to Christ; they have “let go and let God”. Christ is with them in their yoke and is steering it and bearing most of the weight. They go to Him regularly in prayer and in the sacraments. They regularly experience forgiveness. They receive His forgiveness in Confession and regularly forgive others and themselves. It is really Christ who is forgiving through them; it is His grace, strength, and Spirit. That experience of forgiveness removes much burden from their heart. He lifts a great burden from them. They truly experience that his yoke is easy and his burden light.

The second situation involves someone who has not given total control to Christ. They are with Him in his yoke, but want to steer it and take more of the weight of it. They don’t go Him regularly in prayer or in the sacraments. They don’t forgive others or themselves as often, and so their burdens are heavier. Their resentments grow, and anxiety and anger increase in their lives. Their yoke is harder because there is tension. They are taking more of the burden themselves, so it is heavier.

The third situation involves someone who has given no control to Christ. They are steering the yoke by themselves and carrying all of its weight. They don’t go to Christ in prayer or in the sacraments. It has been years since they have been to Confession. It has been years since they have reconciled with God or others. They don’t experience forgiveness on a regular basis. Relationships have been ruined in their family, marriage, and with friends. They have a huge burden in their hearts; it is the burden of pride. It is really living “according to the flesh” as St. Paul writes in the second reading. Their yoke is very hard and their burdens are very heavy because of pride, resentments, and unforgiveness. These may be the greatest burdens on the human heart.

Wherever we are in our relationship with Christ – whether we have given total control to Him, partial control, or no control – He calls us to come to Him. “Come to me all …who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest”. Come to me in Confession. Come to me in the Eucharist. I will lighten your load. “I am meek and humble of heart…my yoke is easy and my burden light”.


At 4:08 PM, Blogger fran said...

"Reconciliation, I think it's one of the most challenging subjects anyone can face. You choose to give up your right to hold that against him."

This quote appeared in an article in yesterday's paper. How true it is, and I think fits perfectly with today's gospel message and homily. If we would simply forfeit so many of our rights, - to be angry, to be resentful, to be unforgiving; how light of mind, heart and spirit we could be.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After hearing today’s gospel reading, and hearing the Fourth of July fireworks, it occurred to me that the two address the same issue; a dream of life filled with freedom. While our forefathers dream was based on freedom from the omnipotent rule of England, the apostle’s dream was based on freedom from the omnipotent rule of sin.

Had our ancestors not believed in the possibility of freedom from England’s power, we would not have the option of living in the United States of America. Had the disciples not believed in the possibility of freedom from sin’s power, we would not have the option of our yolk being carried by Jesus.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not sure the forfeiture of an emotion will bring levity to one’s mind, heart and spirit. I wonder if it is more the choice one makes when an emotion surfaces that brings levity to one’s mind, heart and spirit.

Except for the inability to forgive, aren’t anger and resentment a normal emotion, felt by some more than others? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there such a thing as justified anger? Didn’t both God and Jesus exhibit anger at the behavior of many people? Wasn’t their anger justified considering the acts people were participating in? Had they choose not to express their anger, what would have happened?

At 9:32 AM, Blogger fran said...

I see where you are coming from and I think in some respects we are talking about the same thing.

Sure, all sorts of situations will elicit all types of emotion, some which may be just or rational, others not so much. I am not saying that a person cannot have emotion; that one should forfeit all emotion in every circumstance. I am saying that I agree with the author of the quote, in that if we "give up" our right, our desire, our choice to "hold on to" an emotion, then in terms of reconciliation, it can yield a light mind, heart and spirit. Does that make more sense?

Also, if you "google" the title of the article I am referencing,
"Acts of Reconciliation," the first entry should be the link to the Washington Post article in its entirety. It is about a 29 year old woman who won the top documentary award at the Student Academy Awards in L.A. for "As We Forgive," her film about reconciliation between survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Fran-
I read that article in The Post, and it brought to my mind a documentary I watched about the children who were forced to fight in participation of genocide. There was one account of a twelve year old boy (12 YEARS OLD!!) who was given the option to fight or have his family slaughtered. My daughter is twelve, and when I think of the things he was forced to do, it literally turns my stomach. I never quite understood why what some things happening in other parts of the world don’t clang like a loud bell. One almost needs to search for the information, while “news” of a Yankee ballplayer and a famous singer are splashed all over the headlines. That also makes my stomach turn.

Anyway, the point I intended to make is about forgiveness. We never really know what is in another’s heart. I try to look at things in one of two ways- if someone has offended me, I think, either they are operating from a bad place or they don’t understand the nature of the hurt they have caused. It’s not that I don’t hold them accountable for their actions, or get angry, but the anger and resentment I feel is easier to let go when I consider that someone may be working from a place of pain and/or ignorance. In looking at any situation honestly, I can’t think of a time when someone chose to hurt me for their simple delight in it- I really don’t believe that’s how we are made.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not sure I know how to ask this question in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m 5 yrs old…

How do you hear God?

In order to do His will your must first get His direction. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and therefore can draw direction from that- that’s the primary reason I chose to participate in a Bible Study class. I believe direction can be gained through the study of the catechism- that’s the reason I chose to take a class in that. I sought the help of others through whom I believed the Holy Spirit worked- hence spiritual direction. So, I know how to “hear” God in those ways, but I’m more interested in how another hears God in a more one-to-one, direct way.

I have heard others say that they hear God through prayer- but h-o-w does that happen?

At 7:36 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Here is a site that describes how to make one's own oxen yoke:

Fortunately, readings are on a three-year cycle, thus you've plenty of time before the subject comes up again. ;)

Seriously: The American Dream is that one can be successful if one works hard enough at it. There are any number of rags-to-riches stories within our country's rich history. To describe someone as a self-made man is high praise, while the statement that one is born with a silver spoon in one's mouth is often made with derision.

Given how firmly we embrace the American Dream, how highly we value the results of our own efforts, how fervently we wish to be in control of our lives, it's not surprising that we find it difficult to put down our heavy burdens to take up Christ's light yoke. We can acknowledge and repent of our wrongdoings, we can try to set right what we did wrong, but still it is solely Christ who reconciles us with the Father.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I learned from today:

"Islam, by translation, means "Surrender to the divine" and it is the only religion that has 5 meditations per day keeping you always with a very beautiful state of mind. When one meditates once per day even for an hour or more, between two meditations many things arise and change in the self. When the meditation happens in the course of the whole day, it keeps one connected to this Divine spirit, the oneness in all things." author unknown

After reflecting on these words, I couldn’t help but ask myself if I do the same for our divine Lord. I must say, I lowered my head in shame. I have a long way to go.

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This homily really spoke to me since I have recently been dealing with anxiety issues and even resentment. It really made me reflect and I appreciate that!

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve been struggling with what it means to do God’s will rather than my own. “How on earth does one turns one’s will over to God?” is a question that has lived in my head for a long time, and talks of “yokes” and “burdens” makes it speak louder.

I listened to another talk about her struggle in this, and it truly was an “aha!” moment for me. This woman talked about her struggle to “Let go and let God.” She said she didn’t know how to do it, and her counselor suggested she’d been giving her will up to everyone and everything other than God.

Bing, Bing, Bing!!!

She talked about the things she allowed to drive her life. She talked about how she let others’ thoughts and actions define her own image. She talked about her compulsions, obsessions and attachments. She knew what it was to turn her will over, she simply needed to make the choice to turn her will over to good, and good was her definition of God.

A while back, FG asked me if I thought all good came from God, and that questions came right back to me. If I am working to do good, and not doing the things that I know are bad, that’s enough for me to believe I’m doing God’s will, at least in part. If I’m doing that AND remain open to everything else as it comes, I think I’ll be doing well. Another’s person’s thoughts came to me today too, and she was all about living life simply. I realize I made this more complicated than it needs to be.

At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:07

"I realize I made this more complicated than it needs to be."

This sentence summarizes one of my favorites: KISS (keep it simple stupid). It humbles me back to the simplicity I tend to overlook.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

K.I.S.S. is a phrase I've heard often, but I haven't applied it to matters of faith. Instead, I examine what I believe to the point of doubt at times. I believe faith unexamined isn't really faith, but more like subsribing to an "ignorance is bliss" mentality. However, there are times I should definately ask less questions and simply LET IT BE.

Funny thing though- in fielding lots of questions from my 5 yr. old about a family member's death, I realized I had the exact same questions she did- nearly verbatim. While I think it sometimes good to have that child alive in me, I need to treat "her" the same way I do my 5 yr old when she is asking "why, why why" 50 millions times and say, "That's enough now."


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