Matthew, 11:25-30, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel passage for today can be a great source of consolation for many people. Come to think of it, who among us do not experience getting burdened by the cares of the world? Who among us have not felt the weight of our responsibilities in the family or at work?
Studies in psychology indicate that the modern way of life is increasing the amount of our stress, which in turn contributes to the degradation of our health and well-being. People are tired, drained, spent, exhausted, and getting sick.
Why? One article says there is simply too much going on around us. There is, for example, the phenomenon of “relentless consumption” and “information overload”. The writer sarcastically asks, “If you put a human being in a modern city, and add computers, mobile phones, credit cards, neon lights and 24-hour shopping… what do you expect?”
In this context, rest becomes a really precious word for most of us. The invitation of Jesus comes like spring in an otherwise dry and deserted land.
In the Gospel, Jesus says the key to rest is to come to him because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. A yoke is that piece of wood which is placed over the shoulder of a cow or carabao so that the animal could pull a load or plow the field.
In the Bible, yoke connotes subjection, servitude or bondage. To carry the yoke of someone means you serve that person. You are subject to her wishes. You are bound by her interests.
To carry the yoke of Jesus then means to be of service to him. It means to take upon oneself the desires of God. It means to re-order one’s priorities in the light of what God wants. Today the Gospel tells us – genuine rest comes to those who serve God’s desires.
The two other Readings allow us a glimpse into what it takes to carry the yoke of God. Among other things, it demands that God becomes the king of our lives (Zech 9: 9-10), and that we no longer live according to the dictates of the flesh; instead we live according to the will of the Spirit (Rom 8: 9,11-13).
While it is true that “relentless consumption” and “information overload” contribute to our stress, perhaps it can be said that these are in fact just symptoms of a deeper spiritual problem. To some extent, the modern life has led us to serve “creatures” rather than the “creator”, to worship the “product” rather than the “ultimate producer”.
Perhaps we have grown so exhausted because we have lost sight of the real “Lord” and “Master” of our lives. We have carried so many yokes but none of them belongs to Jesus.
I am fortunate to be living in a small community of priests which count among its members an 80 year-old, gentle and saintly Jesuit. He is a veteran of formation work and of the missions, having served the Lumads in the mountains of Bukidnon for several years. While many of the younger ones look harassed and stressed out, this old, saintly Jesuit has remained healthy and strong, and has kept his youthful looks and serene disposition. [We used to say that he looked like Robert Redford. Now it is Robert Redford who used to look like him!] I believe he has found the secret to genuine rest. He has faithfully carried the yoke of Jesus.
In this mass we pray for the grace of renewed loyalty. We ask that we may serve effectively the desires of God and obtain the rest that he promised.
[Photo credits: Google]