Sunday, July 09, 2017

My Yoke is Easy

Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. Zechariah 9:9

"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

God, sometimes this world is hard to understand.
And even when we trust you, our hearts still ache.
So we come to you today asking for the hope we need.
Hope that sees past the here and now to the then and there.
Hope that believes what we cannot yet glimpse.
Hope that holds our hearts up in the moments
when life brings us to our knees.
You are the only one who can sustain us.
You are the only one who can save us.
Be the rescuer of our souls, the deliverer of our dreams,
the holder of our hearts.
We believe that even the darkest night must lead to dawn.
We wait with expectation.
Give us Courage. Surround us with Comfort.
Love us through to the other side in a way that only you can.
We put our hope and our hope for those we love, in you.
(by Holly Girth)

To every Jewish person who heard Jesus speak, the word “yoke” means only one thing:  the law.  Michael Card, writing in Matthew: The Gospel of Identity, quotes the Mishnah[i]:

He that takes upon himself the yoke of the law,
from him shall be taken away the yoke of the kingdom
and the yoke of worldly care;
but he that throws off the yoke of the law,
upon him shall be laid the yoke of the kingdom
and the yoke of worldly care. 

Card explains that “kingdom” in this context has to do with repressive empires like Rome, not the Kingdom of God.  The duality here is between the dictates of the dictator and the dictates of the Pharisees. 

In opposition to the belligerent Romans and the rule-making and rule-enforcing Pharisees, Jesus offers a viable and very attractive option.  Jesus offers rest to those who make him their rabbi.  Card says that Jesus “throws off the 613 burdensome commands of old orthodoxy” and instead promises rest for their soul. 

Using the image of a yoke is ironic -- almost contradictory -- to the promise Jesus makes.  Who – or what – wears a yoke?  A yoke is a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (such as oxen or horses) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.  That cross-bar “resting” on their necks seems pretty similar to the horizontal bar of the cross.  

How many times – when you are asked about your personal condition – do you respond to the questioner with a comment about how tired you are even after just waking up from a night’s sleep or a nap?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” 

This is a powerful message for our over-worked lives and society. Our lives are dictated by our commutes.  Our work schedule is hard to escape with e-mails and voice-mails and internet connectedness.

Today, the Good News asks us to connect instead to Jesus and make him our rabbi. What does it mean today to make Jesus our rabbi?  Bishop Robert Barron – auxiliary from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and leader of the Word on Fire ministry – tells us that in today’s Gospel, Jesus is “identifying every person who feels put upon by the world: economic worries, physical suffering, deep injustice, the death of a husband or wife, or the fear of your own death.”

Bishop Barron reminds us that the answer to our woes is to submit to the pastoral promises of the kingship of Christ. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” We are asked to serve his purposes and go where he wants us to go, not where we want to go.  Barron asks:

Is Christ commanding your life in every detail? Is he the Lord of your family life? Of your recreational life? Of your professional life? Of your sexuality? Of your friendships? Are you totally given over to him, under his lordship?

[i] The Mishnah is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic literature.

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