Homily preached by Br. Simeon at Winmalee on Sunday 6th July 2014:
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Gospel: Mt 11:15-30 ( Sermon based on 25-30)
“The Yoke of Faith"My Yoke is Easy, My Burden Light?"
May I speak in the Name of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus here issues a wonderful invitation and makes a wonderful promise. “Come to me” is the invitation, and “I will give you rest” is the promise.
Few passages in the New Testament are as well known as the one we’ve just read from Matthew. And few of Jesus’ promises are as deeply satisfying as his promise to give us rest. It is a wonderful passage.
In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus appeals to those who experience life as one unending chore. He offers rest and refreshment. His yoke is easy, he says. His burden is light.
Let us be mindful though, that following Jesus does mean that you are foot-loose and fancy-free. To be a disciple means to come under the discipline of a master. It means voluntarily putting a yoke on ones shoulders, and walking in a direction set by the master. It just happens to be the direction that the master knows will lead to pasture, refreshment, and happiness. But when oxen are told to move, they can't necessarily see the pasture at the end of the trail. All they see is a long, dusty road leading to nowhere.
There are some masters that are harsh and overbearing. When the oxen slow down due to fatigue or stubbornness, out comes the bull whip. The journey turns into a guilt trip. The Pharisees were such masters. But Jesus is not. He is gentle. Gentleness does not mean whimpiness. He is strong and decisive, insistent on the direction to go and the pace to keep. Yet his strength is quiet, loving strength that builds up rather than tears down.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus uses the image of the yoke? At least two oxen are hitched together by a yoke side by side. Oxen are called "beasts of burden." So why does he calls his yoke easy, his burden light? Because he humbly yokes himself to us. Simon of Cyrene helped carry his cross; he helps carry ours.
And he bears most of the weight, if we let him. That's why his yoke is easy.
And he gives us His Spirit within (Romans 8:9-10) to give us the inner strength to bear our share of the burden, which is, of course, the far lesser share to begin with.
Easy yoke, light burden. You may reply that it sure doesn't feel that way most of the time. This could be for one of two reasons. What we are carrying may simply not be the Lord's yoke. Sometimes we deliberately disobey the Lord (that's called sin) and allow a tyrannical master to dominate our lives. No problem. That's what the sacrament of baptism is all about. Renouncing an oppressive Pharaoh in favour of a liberating Lord. If we've betrayed our baptism and gone back to the fleshpots of Egypt, we have the sacrament of penance to bring us back across the Red Sea to the Promised Land of Freedom.
The other reason the yoke may seem heavy is because we are not allowing the Lord to carry the weight. Or because we are not keeping his pace. We could be dragging our heels or racing ahead of him. Either way, we are chafing and straining. Perhaps we need just to quiet down for a few moments in the green pasture of prayer and adoration, to attune our ears once again to the voice of the Master. The solution is easy: Let go and let God.
Today I extend to you that invitation that when you come to that place of the Holy Eucharist, when you present yourself to be fed of Christ's Body and Blood, bring your burdens to Him, and hand them over to Him. His invitation is an open one, listen as he calls you in the very depth of your heart and soul ““Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. It is a promise He has never failed to keep, and I know you won't regret it.