14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9th July 2017

Shoulder my yoke and learn from me

First Reading

Zechariah 9:9-10

The Lord says this:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!
Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!
See now, your king comes to you;
he is victorious, he is triumphant,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will banish chariots from Ephraim
and horses from Jerusalem;
the bow of war will be banished.
He will proclaim peace for the nations.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the ends of the earth.

Second Reading

Romans 8:9,11-13

Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him, and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Gospel Reading

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Scripture readings – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“Shoulder my yoke and learn from me”

by Michał Jeszke

“Shoulder my yoke”. For centuries these words of Jesus are encoded in the sign of the priestly stoal. By putting it on neck, the priest inserts the yoke of Christ. The yoke of responsibility for the faithful, but also the yoke of his own faith. Yes, faith is also our cross. Anyone who has experienced doubts or any other difficulties in prayer knows what I am talking about. The main issue is how we approach the Christ yoke. What should we do, so it does not overburden us?

First of all, we must not allow our faith to be reduced to an empty law (such as only orders, prohibitions or tradition). When we lose the relationship with God as a person, we will awake on our knees before a piece of a tree in the shape of a cross, or a picture that tells us nothing. In this way we get rid of motivation and strength, and finally we can give up our faith by treating it as unnecessary weight.

The second reason we do this is the pride which Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. The lack of “humble of heart” extinguishes our faith. A good example is the story from Genesis. There was a yoke in the form of a ban on the consumption of fruit from only one tree. Our pride cannot accept the existence of any prohibition that we are not the author of. We want to “be like God.” Today Jesus says “being like God” means “to be humble heart”.

So the relationship with God and the daily concern for humility is a lesson from today’s passage of the Gospel. May our guide be Mother Teresa, a woman who has earned the absolute recognition of all: great politicians, culture makers, the media – every time she came to the United States, this was the news headline. At the same time she was a woman of extraordinary humility. She used to say: I am only a small pencil which God writes.

Let us fight for humility and do not get rid of the difficulties in our live, let us not seek faith which does not challenge us, but let us seek in these experiences the opportunity to learn from Jesus and find comfort in Him.

LECTIO DIVINA

by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB

Introduction to Lectio Divine

Faced with the incredulity of the majority, Jesus is pleased with the faith that he finds among the few who dare to accept his message without being shocked by him. They are the reason for Jesus’ prayer in which he reveals his most intimate secret: his Father is God of the simple people, a God who makes the little ones wise and makes the ignorant learned. Because he had simple people around him who would not be shocked, Jesus was able to declare that he was the Son of God and that he was grateful towards his Father. After this act of thanksgiving, Jesus offers rest to those simple people. The healing and relief that the disciples will find in their master is not due to the absence of impositions or a lack of instruction. His teaching is light because Jesus is gentle. His burden is bearable because he has a humble heart. His burden and his rest are for his disciples. Jesus does not free them from obedience nor from the cross. He promises, however, that obedience will not be too difficult for them, and that he will give rest to those who carry their cross.

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

Although the gospels tell us that Jesus prayed often, they do not often tell us the content of his prayer. That makes this brief passage all the more precious. In it we find not only the sentiments of Jesus and the words he addressed to God, his Father, but also an invitation to share his rest and his teaching.  Jesus extends this invitation to all who are tired and overburdened.

This prayer is consoling but it has a very specific motive. Jesus said this prayer during his public ministry when he observed that among those who were following him, only a few simple people were accepting God and opening their lives to his will. This little ‘triumph’ of his evangelizing work brought joy to Jesus’ heart and a prayer to his lips. The so-called good people thought Jesus was not good enough, and the learned and clever thought he was not sufficiently capable. Only the humble gave him credit and appreciated him, and felt drawn to follow him. For those who did follow him, he became their teacher of prayer and giver of rest.

The prayer has three distinct parts. It begins with thanksgiving. Jesus declared himself grateful to his Father for revealing himself to the little ones. He is thanking the father for the success of his mission, and there is already a lesson for us in this. He makes it clear that the Father himself rejoices that he has been understood by the little ones. This preference of God for the little ones is a reason for Jesus to give thanks, and he thanks the Father also that his own personal mission has not failed.

The second statement of Jesus is not so much a prayer as a personal confession. He calls himself Son, with great simplicity and clarity. He acknowledges that his mission to make the Father known is a gift that has been given to him. The words he uses are striking: “no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” To know God the Father we must learn from the Son.

The third statement is an invitation, or rather a promise. He leaves his prayer and his personal confession and moves on to exhortation. He is no longer speaking to the Father who is known only through the Son, nor to the Son who makes the Father known, but to those of his listeners who feel the need of comfort and rest.

Jesus never ceases to surprise. Before he promises rest, he imposes two tasks on his followers, giving them two commands – ‘take my yoke upon you’, and ‘learn from me’. The disciple may feel tired, but if he wants comfort he will have to learn from his master and carry his master’s yoke. The yoke is easy but the disciple must accept it, and the burden is light but he must carry it nonetheless.

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

The people who prompted Jesus’ prayer were simple people who believed without too much understanding, people who were deemed unimportant. Because he knew that they accepted him and his teaching, Jesus let them share his prayer. In it he revealed his personal mystery, thanked the Father and praised the Father’s will. Could we ever hope to have such an influence on Jesus? Anyone who acknowledges Jesus, causes Jesus to give thanks to his Father. Anyone who is not shocked by him, obliges him to reveal himself as the Son of God. It should be enough for us that Jesus is happy to be accepted by people, even if they are as simple and lacking in merit as we are. We should make an effort to ensure that he is known and appreciated, without seeking recognition or esteem for ourselves. This should be enough for us because then we will be the cause of his joy and his prayer.

We know very little about those first disciples. We don’t even know their names.  But we, like they, can restore Jesus’ confidence in himself and in God, if we resolve to follow him and not be shocked by him, to stay with him and not seek other teachers, and to obey him alone and serve no other master. It does not require great deeds, nor exceptional intelligence, nor riches. We are good enough as we are. Surely it is not too great a price to pay – we only have to put our hope in him, poor and simple as we are.

After he has prayed, Jesus invites those who accept him and who are happy with him to renew their strength and find relief from their pain, as they follow him closely. He wants to make disciples of those who accept him without reserve. He wants them to learn from him how to rest from their labours. They know who he is and so they are worthy to be his friends. However, he does not hide the fact that even when they are close to him the difficulties do not disappear. Jesus does not deceive his followers, no matter how simple they may be. He speaks to them of a yoke and a burden. He does not hide his demands nor make them any lighter. The rest and comfort the disciples receive from their master is not due to the absence of impositions or an easy way of life. The teaching of Jesus is easy because Jesus is gentle, and his burden is light because he has a humble heart. It is, then, both burden and comfort for his disciples. Jesus does not free his disciples from obedience or from the cross. He simply promises them that they will not fall under the weight of his demands and that being obedient and carrying their cross will not be too much of a burden for them.

And he gives the reason.  He is a humble master, at the level of simple people. He is a merciful teacher who does not lose patience with his disciples when they forget his teaching. Jesus’ disciples will know this if they learn from him how much God loves everyone, and if they see the will of God as their guide in life. They are not free therefore from their duty as disciples. But because Jesus is a master with a compassionate heart, the disciple can rest in perfect tranquillity, even when he is not able to repeat all he has learnt or to put into practice all he has been taught. The Master’s deep compassion keeps the disciple from feeling that he has failed. Jesus does not love us because we are good, but he wants us to be better than we are. He does not give up on us, and continues to give us more than we give him, and more than we are able to receive. Jesus always gives more…

He loves us so much, with a heart that is afflicted by our sinfulness, that he never loses hope for us, even if we do not succeed in being good. He never rejects us because we have not become better. In Jesus we have a Master who will always ask more of us, because he always loves us more, but he will not stop loving us when we fail to live according to his will.

His poverty is our best guarantee. Being a disciple of Jesus is difficult but not painful. It may sometimes be heavy but never oppressive. If even disobedient disciples find acceptance and healing, what will he have in store for those who try hard to follow him more closely? Tiredness and fatigue are never a reason for abandoning him. Indeed, the tired and overburdened are precisely those who are invited by Jesus. Let’s not forget that! If we do not follow him, because we fear the yoke or the burden, we will continue to feel the fatigue and the injustices of life. Jesus is joy and repose only for those who accept him as their gentle and humble master. What keeps us back, then, from choosing him as our only Master and Lord?

PRAYER

Lord God,
when our world lay in ruins,
you raised it up again on the foundation of your Son’s Passion and Death.
Give us grace to rejoice in the freedom from sin
which he gained for us,
and bring us to everlasting joy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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ShoulderMyYokeAndLearnFromMe