7.20.17 Thurs. wk. 15 – O.T. – (I) 1st Rdg. Exodus 3: 14 – 20 Gospel Matthew – 11: 28 – 30
†Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily by Fr. Mike Murphy
“Come to me…take my yoke upon you”. (Matt.11:28) Now to the people of His time, this invitation by †Jesus was really welcoming. In Sacred Scripture, “yoke” tended to have a negative connotation for the Israelite people. First of all, a yoke was a heavy piece of farm equipment, there was nothing light about it. It paired two oxen for heavy work in the field or to pull carts full of supplies. In fact, God describes Israel captivity in Egypt as a ‘yoke’ in the Book of Leviticus: “For it is I, the Lord your God, breaking the yoke that had been laid upon you”. (Lev.26:13) For the Law of Moses, as imposed by the Pharisees in the succeeding generations, was often considered at heavy yoke. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians: “For freedom, Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery”. (Gal. 5:1)
But the yoke of †Jesus does not enslave us; it sets us free. As God said to Moses at the burning bush: “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated”. (Exodus 3:16f) †Jesus is concerned about each one of us. Again, listen to His words: “Come to me…take my yoke upon you”. (Matt.11:28) What beautiful words of invitation and comfort from †Jesus. †Jesus calls us not to run; not to run away from Him, not to run away into ourselves, either. “You who labor and are burdened…I will give you rest”. (ibid.)
We all carry burdens in our lives, sometimes they seem too much to bear; and we try to deal with them on our own rather than allowing the Lord to help us carry that burden. Oh, we may ask for help from †Jesus, we may say: ‘Lord, I want that help now, in my time and in a way I want it’. But, if it doesn’t happen in the way we want it, and at the time we want it, then we revert back into ourselves and we do it our own way. We become very willful.
For the Israelites the journey to the Promised Land would be hard, but the land flowing with milk and honey awaited them. Life and its burdens are not easy, all of us have experienced difficulties, but the difficulties of our journey will still lead us to the Promised Land, for the difficulties are only temporary. We may be asked to do new things and not to depend solely on ourselves on this journey. We may be challenged and what the Lord is asking of us may be uncomfortable at times, but it will make us grow in unity with God if we are faithful. If we unite ourselves with †Jesus, with His yoke, He will carry it with us.
The 14th century mystic, Fr. John Tauler, O.P. wrote: “When emptying himself of all self-seeking, (the person) has given himself up to God to be one with Him”. (from: Sermons and Conferences of Fr. John Tauler, O.P.; Very Rev. Walter Elliott, trans. (1910); Apostolic Mission House, Brookland Station, Washington, D.C.) Joy does not come from filling up our life, joy comes from emptying out our life – breaking down barriers, removing the clutter between my heart and the Heart of †Jesus; that’s what brings joy.
I’d like to do something a little new for us. I’d like to have you enter with me into a moment of prayer. So just sit as comfortably as you can, with your feet flat on the floor, perhaps put your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and calm your breathing.
Listen to these words of †Jesus: “Come to me; be at peace, I am in you and you are in me. Whatever burden you might be carrying, give it to me. No, really – give it to me, I can help you carry it. If today you are in a place of consolation without a burden, then think of someone you know who carries a heavy burden. In your heart say to them: “Let me and †Jesus help you with that”. Hear the voice of †Jesus: “Come to me. Come to me”.
The following poem can be used as a basic guide for silent meditation just as Fr. Mike did as part of his homily.
Come To Me
by Father Thomas Rover, O.P.
Come over to me, all you who are restless,
and I will teach you how to be quiet,
how to leave yourself alone.
Come over to me all you who are anxious,
even if I don’t take your anxiety away,
I will change it to fresh currency,
as you turn your cares into greater belief in my caring.
Come over to me, all you who are lonely,
I was lonely too,
and could find no place to lay my head.
Come over to me, all you who worry what others really think about you.
It doesn’t matter.
They misunderstood me, no matter what I did.
Come over to me, all you who are always…
talking and pleading and explaining yourselves to others.
I know you inside and out.
I know the worst.
So you can come to me without any explanations.
Come over to me, all you whose great plans for yourself have failed.
You don’t know how lucky you are.
And others, too.
Come to me all you who can’t stand yourselves.
I touched lepers, and once I called a man out of a tomb…
who had been stinking for four days.
So come over to me – I can stand just about anything.
Come over to me all you who can’t stand other people.
I know what is behind their misery.
I know the worst in them as I know it in you.
And I embrace you both.
Come over to me, all you who fret about the past.
I was there, I was part of your past, and I have forgotten all about it.
So be like me and forget it too.
Come over to me, all you who can’t live peacefully in the present.
Come to me now, without reserve.
This is the way to live peacefully in the present.
Come over to me, all you who fear the future.
Do not fear.
I am your future
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.