July 5th, 2020: Homily- Fourteenth Sunday Ordinary Time

There is a story of a man who had a dream. In the dream he was walking along the beach with Jesus and they were replaying all the important moments of his life. The man noticed that for each scene there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to Jesus. But he also noticed that when they came to the most difficult and trying moments of his life there were only one set of footprints. The man could not understand this, so he asked Jesus: “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. Why is it then that during the most difficult periods of my life when I needed you the most you would leave me?” Jesus replied. “My child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the most difficult moments of your life, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times I carried you.”

In today’s gospel Jesus offers us a way out: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). The rest he promises is a release from the experience of serving God. The promise means that serving God could be transformed into a sweet experience of rest. To me, these words are among the loveliest and most hopeful words in Holy Scripture.

But there could be no rest without burdens? As we all know, life can be very burdensome for people-even for the wealthiest. There are all kinds of burdens-worry, bitterness, guilt, illness, disappointments, unemployment, difficult relationships, addictions, etc. There are also burdens due to some demands and expectations from others. Like for example: burdens of responsibility that comes with being a parent, a teacher, a manager or a leader. But the question now is, how do we respond or persevere or deal with these burdens which are parts of our lives? Jesus, personally, saw all this. He was fully aware of the struggles and frustrations that people endured. He was very aware of the heavy burdens that life placed on their shoulders.

That’s why Jesus then goes on to assure us: “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” (v. 29). Looks like we have a problem here! Is Jesus calling on those who are carrying heavy loads to come and add a yoke to their burden? Doesn’t that sound like adding affliction to the afflicted? No; Jesus is asking us to cast away our burdens and take on his yoke. This is because, unlike the burdens we bear, his yoke is easy and his burden light.

What is this yoke that Jesus is offering us? Two things are said about a yoke. First, yokes were custom made for each ox. They were carved of solid wood, form fitted so that the yoke would not rub sores on the ox’s shoulders. Second, the yoke allows the two animals to pull together. Work is shared, and when day is done, the oxen are tired but not exhausted.

Jesus says, “Take my yoke.” So then what is the yoke of Christ? His yoke is to follow His way of love, to keep God’s commandments, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our teammate is Jesus. The Son of God wears the other yoke as our partner. He is our yoke-mate. Actually, the yoke belongs to Christ and He invites us to team up with Him.

Somebody had said that to take the yoke of Christ is to associate and identify ourselves with Him: our destiny with His destiny, our vision with His vision and our mission with His mission. It is to know that we are not pulling the yoke alone and by our power but together with Christ and by the strength that comes from Him. It is to know that Jesus is not just a teacher who gives you homework but also a friend who helps you do it. He is the One who provides the grace to live our Christian faith.

According to William Barclay, who has written reflective commentaries on New Testament books, legend has it that Jesus the carpenter was the best yoke builder in his area. Perhaps, then Jesus also be the best yoke builder for lightening the loads of people. Now our yokes are not wooden, instead are about relationships to Jesus and others.

And so concretely, everyday we are all invited by the Lord to put upon ourselves the yoke of discipleship and to learn from Him. Apart from Him, our endeavors of doing the will of God the Father is empty. Most of the time we find it hard to follow in his footsteps because we carry our own yoke carved and patterned after this world. We complain to God that it is too heavy. We fail to notice that this is our own choice, not the choice he is offering us. But He is assuring us that his yoke is good and light. The one he offers is modeled after his gentleness and humility. We need to put our complete trust in him because he knows what is best for us.

So, come to Him, look at Jesus who was crucified on the cross, who really understands us, every time we are wearied and in pain.

As followers of Christ, we are called, not only to find peace, refreshment and rest for ourselves, but also to live the kind of life through which others, too, may find God’s peace , God’s refreshing grace, and the joy of placing our lives in God’s hands.

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