Thursday, July 18, 2013

Find Rest

Find Rest

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Matthew 11:29-30


Father God, take care of us as You took care of the Israelites who were imprisoned in Egypt and then were lost in the desert. 
Brother Jesus, share our burdens in this life despite our propensity to turn our backs on you when you need us to share your Good Friday burden.
Holy Spirit, gift to us what we need to return to the Father from whatever wrong path we are journeying upon. Amen.


Taken for its literal meaning, today’s Gospel is a reading of hope.  Is Jesus saying to his follower’s that coming after him and returning to the works of the Father are easy?  In the context of this chapter and the messages surrounding it, that would be a hard question to answer affirmatively.
First, this talk comes right after he preaches an “answer” to the question sent by John from prison.  Therefore, the people already know that if John was the greatest prophet and missionary announcing the coming of the kingdom, the people know where it landed John: in prison.
Second, the yoke and burden of following Jesus might be seen as easier than the punishments suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers who occupy the Holy Land.  Plus, these people also know the heavy burden imposed upon them by the Pharisees.
Finally, when we look at the messages in the chapters around this, we hear Jesus say things like:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:37-39
He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.  Matthew 12:39-40
The fact that Jesus recognizes his burden is a yoke also indicates he knows it is not easy.  After all, a yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen and other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do.  When Jesus says to us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he was offering to join with us and help carry our heavy load. Jesus does not make extraordinary demands for us to step into his yoke; however, once we are “yoked” together like a team of oxen or horses, our burden becomes his; suddenly it feels lighter than if we were pulling by ourselves.


Jesus is not recruiting followers with a message of simplicity but rather of reality.  They know that “picking up his cross” is not an easy physical act.  It is an act of torture and execution.  The “promise” of today is not for comfort in this world.  The promise of today’s readings is for comfort in the Kingdom when we rest in the Lord and with the Lord.

We are asked to keep his commandments by listening to what Jesus has to say and acting upon them.  Jesus himself carries out this instruction in full sight of the people, the Romans and the Pharisees.  As the Cursillo talk says of a leader, “A leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.”  So we are asked to follow in His footsteps not for the promise of physical comfort but for the promise of everlasting reward.

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