Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Find Rest

[The Lord] gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths - for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me in front of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days. (Psalm 23)

Who is Jesus addressing today?  All of us.  Everyone who is a worker and those who bear special burdens.  In his day, the Pharisees placed special burdens on some people.  Today, some face unique burdens in life because there is a special needs child, an aging parent, or ill spouse in the home needing care.  Some people entered into a public service career like a medicine/nursing, firefighting, policing, or mail delivery.  Still others work for a company that stays open on Thanksgiving or other holidays when the world is at play or at worship or with family.

Oxen or other pairs of animals get fastened into a yoke (a wooden crosspiece) in order to pull a cart or a plow.  Fitted in this fashion, they do farm work “so others might eat.”  Jesus asks us to bear our own cross – a cross of sacrifice, service, or fasting – in order to help others attain the Kingdom on earth.

In place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation, Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which we find rest (eventually) even after families are driven apart, children leave their parents, and they face persecution and hardships referred to in the Beatitudes.

Jesus invites us in a pique of understatement to take his yoke (the Word and the cross) upon our shoulders.  “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Really. Really?  Maybe his verbal commands are easier than the requirements of the Pharisees. However, his command also is to take up our cross daily and follow him. To willingly submit to the self-sponsored execution of our self, our ego, to follow him and serve others.

(Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press)
Today’s imagery of the yoke stands both in comparison to the lightness of Psalm 23 and in stark contrast to the peaceful, restful images of the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23. What is your burden and how will you meet that today?

How will you leave your self behind for others while focusing on mercy, not judgement? Just like we are invited to take up the yoke of Christ, we are invited to pass through the Holy Door in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Speaking of So Others Might Eat, today there was a note in my mail from Fr. John Adams at the charity reminding me (and now you) that everyone will not have a warm blanket and bed this winter:

Despite El Nino, the nights are getting cold and we are all concerned about the safety of men, women and children who are living on the streets.

If you see a homeless person who is inadequately protected on a freezing day in DC, you can call the DC Hypothermia Hotline, 1.800.535.7252, and a van will be dispatched to pick them up.

Special resources are also available for homeless individuals with mental health disorders. If you know a homeless individual in DC who may be in need of these services, please call DC’s Homeless Outreach Teams’ offices at 202.673.9124, or call the 24-hour Access Helpline at 1.888.793.4357.

[SOME] also invites us to attend the overnight 2015 Homeless Memorial Vigil on December 17 and the 2015 Homeless Memorial Service on December 18. The Vigil and Service memorialize individuals who passed away while living on the streets.

Taking up this yoke to care for the homeless is just one act that we can do this Advent season. Our support joins with others to provide the people who come to SOME for help with hot meals, warm clothing, services and affordable housing. Your action will keep them warmer and safer than if they were on the cold, hard streets. 

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