ACCEPTING THE YOKE OF CHRIST
In the first reading of today we have the words which the New Testament saw fulfilled on Palm Sunday: “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.” Even the Prophets recognized that the Savior to come would not be necessarily a political power or a person who exercised authority in the way to which people were accustomed. Instead, the Saviour could come in humility, could be ugly, could be a person no one saw as special, etc. The same is true for us today. So often we don’t want to listen to the words given us in Scripture, we don’t want to accept the teachings which have been handed down to us and we don’t really believe that God has reached into our world and become one of us. We really don’t want a God but prefer ourselves to be God in all. Peace is offered to us in the first reading and we must strive to be agents of peace in a world purpled by violence and hatred. Men and women of peace shall inherit the earth.
The second reading taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans tells us of the need to do away with the lust of the flesh, for what the flesh wants is contrary to what the Spirit wants. Here we listen to these words: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” How difficult to put to death the deeds of the body! Our bodies want their own pleasure and our whole spiritual discipline insists that only an asceticism based in Jesus Christ will be able to subdue the desires of the body. Paul tells the first-century Roman Christian community about two yokes, namely, the “flesh” and the “Spirit.” He challenges them to reject the heavy and fatal yoke of the flesh and to accept the light yoke of the Spirit of Jesus. Christian spirituality, according to Paul, proceeds from the initiative of the Holy Spirit and means living in the realm of the “Spirit” as opposed to the “flesh.” Yet in our modern culture, the body is almost worshipped and certain hardly does anyone believe again that the body should be denied any pleasure that it can have—as long as it harms no one else. This is our modern way of thinking and it is completely against the teachings of Christ. We are not to allow ourselves to be led by the desires of the flesh but in practicing mortification of the senses we can live righteously and live in the Spirit.
In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus is condemning intellectual pride. He knows that ordinary people with large, sensitive hearts can accept the “Good News” he preaches, while proud intellectuals cannot. Very often we are tempted to rationalize everything about God. For many us, following God’s command has to be intelligible to us, and if we fail to fully appreciate the rationale behind His command we immediately discard it as nonsensical. Jesus decries such attitude and encourages us to embrace the attitude of a child, which is characterized by simplicity, gentility, forgiveness, acceptance of the parents’ will, docility, dependency and filial love and trust.
Many people today are carrying heavy burdens. Anxieties and fears burden us all, fears about our economy, the cost of food and school fees, house rents, businesses, what’s happening to our children, sickness, marriage, job opportunities, terrorism and other security concerns, our national unity, and so on. The list seems both overwhelming and endless. Many parents feel they are taken for granted, not appreciated, and that they are simply being used while getting nothing back out of life for what they’ve put into it. All of us are laboring under burdens. In addition to the few things I’ve just mentioned, many folks have piled on to themselves burdens of self-doubt, self-blame, shame, and guilt as a result of sins committed or the consequence of a life lived in error. Labouring under many burdens we are here today as Mass and we’ve just heard Jesus say to us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest.” How could anyone not be attracted to what Jesus offers us?
The Christian faith is not magic. Christ’s life was not painless and totally free of burdens. Quite the contrary! But what He does offer us is His invitation to be yoked with Him, to pull our burdens and tasks through life with Him, sharing His yoke, drawing on His strength, and letting Him help us while we help Him accomplish His tasks. Christ doesn’t do things for you; He does things with you.
"My burden is light" (11:30). Jesus does not mean that the burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid on us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light. When we remember the love of God, when we know that our burden is to love, both directly and by loving men, the God Who loves us, then the burden becomes easy. By following Jesus, a man will find peace, rest, and refreshment.
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. The yoke of Jesus is the love of God. By telling us: "Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest" (11:29), Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way. When we center in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens.
His relationship with His Father empowered Him, filling Him with God’s Holy Spirit. He knew that His Father was a gentle, caring, and generous Father who loved with a love infinitely greater than any human love. I don’t know what your image of God is, and I don’t know how you feel about God, but I do know that you need to be yoked with Jesus in accomplishing God’s work and in carrying out His tasks. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 3:19). We too can feel our burdens lightened when we cultivate a relationship with Christ.
The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. To take the yoke of Christ is to put ourselves in a relationship with Christ as his servants and subjects and to conduct ourselves accordingly. The yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. A yoke is fashioned for a pair -- for a team working together. So we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power; we are yoked together with Christ to work with Him using His strength. By saying that his “yoke is light” (11:30), Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
The yoke of Christ's kingdom, his kingly rule and way of life, liberates us from the burden of guilt and from the oppression of sinful habits and hurtful desires. Only Jesus can lift the burden of sin and the weight of hopelessness from us - and give us a weight of love and glory in exchange. Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden of sin and despair for a burden of glory and yoke of freedom from sin. The yoke which Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of grace and freedom from the power of sin. Do you trust in God's love and submit to his will and plan for your life?
If we take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves we will find our own burdens to be much lighter. Life is, after all, essentially hard. Jesus offers you something that can make life essentially beautiful for you and for me. “Come to me,” He cries, “all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Everything depends upon how close you will let Jesus come to you.
POPE FRANCIS’ WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Weep not for what you have lost, fight for what you have.
Weep not for what is dead, fight for what was born in you.
Weep not for the one who abandoned you, fight for who is with you.
Weep not for those who hate you, fight for those who want you.
Weep not for your past, fight for your present struggle.
Weep not for your suffering, fight for your happiness.
With things that are happening to us, we begin to learn that nothing is impossible to solve, just move forward.
Prayer - Lord Jesus, give us the child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and confidence in your all-merciful love. Remove every doubt, fear, and proud thought which would hinder us from receiving your word with trust and humble submission. Give us the grace to surrender all to you, for by ourselves we are helpless and can do nothing. Amen!!!