Offers food for thought
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his apostles: "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 This week we are reminded that God doesn’t leave us on our own to make that journey toward greater holiness without the grace necessary. Just as God spoke last week of the rewards of faithfulness, this week God’s great mercy is shown to us in God’s willingness to walk with us and to lead us on our journey toward greater holiness, by the yoke of his teaching.
The peace, the joy, the consolation we so deeply desire is found in their truest form when we do as he asks, “Shoulder my yoke… and you will find rest… Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 Such a statement seems counterintuitive, if we are familiar with animal yokes. We normally think of a yoke as a heavy, burdensome and possibly painful piece of wood laid on the shoulders of Oxen. But actually, the Oxen become more powerful and exert less energy because of the yoke. They can pull the weight of the plow or cart much more easily, and adjustments can be made in order to compensate for one of the animals being weaker than the other. Now you have an image in your mind (and you can look at the pictures) of what it means for animals to be yoked together, which means you can imagine yourself being yoked with Jesus, pulling together. Where he goes, we go, pulling together and making everything in life so much easier.
Another way of understanding the image of the yoke is the way in which the Hebrews understood it, apart from farming and transportation. In rabbinic theology the yoke is a symbol of service and servitude which could be negative or positive, such as when the contrast is drawn between the "yoke of the kingdom of man" and "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven." We see this in the Jewish Avot, which is a tractate of the Mishna and composed of ethical maxims of the Rabbis. The Avot says, "Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, they remove from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns, and whoever breaks off the yoke of the Torah, they place on him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns" (Avot 3:5). In Avot 6:6 the phrase "bearing the yoke with one's fellow" means "sharing his burdens." This is what we hear Jesus talking about in today’s Gospel reading. He wants us to join him in his yoke, which he says is light and easy. It is light and easy because its God to whom we are surrendering ourselves. It is the yoke of Gods teachings which, if we remain united with God, make the challenges of life and discipleship much more bearable.
When we understand what it means to surrender and take on this yoke, then we realize that there can be no other way of living in true freedom and peace. We realize that this is what we are talking about when we proclaim that Jesus is our King, that he is a Prince of Peace, and more deeply understand how Jesus can be identified with the king in reading from the prophet Zechariah, “He will proclaim peace for the nations.” He is a king of peace, but not just in the sense of an external absence of violence but of a deep, inner peace.
The key to that inner peace is surrendering ourselves and receiving the yoke of Christ, to abandon life of the flesh and live life in the Spirit just as Saint Paul exhorts. “Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you… if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” God calls for the total giving of self, as the only way to find one’s true self.
Whatever demands God might make of us, Jesus wants us to follow his example in the garden of his agony, when he said He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” And then, like him, to rise from our prayer with dignity and strength and face of the challenges. To be full of inner peace from having said that total ‘Yes’ to God. Peace comes when what I desire is what God desires. When God’s will and mine are in union.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.