Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Adam Royal
July 4, 2020 – 5:00 PM
“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.” These words sound pleasant. Jesus, our good shepherd, takes upon himself all of our burdens and replaces them with a light yoke. The Christian life should be easy, but we know it isn’t. Loving, forgiving, bearing wrongs patiently, the essential outward signs of the Christian life, are hard, even seemingly impossible to do consistently. Nonetheless, Jesus’ words are true, if we pay attention to the words he chose. Jesus doesn’t say, “My way is easy.” He says, “My burden is light.” ‘Burden’ does not refer to the effort to make the right choices. It doesn’t refer to how difficult or easy it is to forgive or be patient. ‘Burden’ refers to the weight we bear continually. Elsewhere, in the New Testament, it is translated cargo. Our burden is what we always carry around with us. So it refers not to our choices, but their consequences, how we must live after we have made our choices.
Think about the consequences of sin. When we know we have done something wrong, if our conscience hasn’t completely atrophied, we are embarrassed and ashamed; we feel guilt. In response to that guilt, we far too often take up the burden of guilt. We try to cover up what we have done. We don’t want others to know that we aren’t perfect, as if they didn’t already, and we certainly don’t want to be punished. This usually means hiding things, lying, or just hoping no one ever notices. Then it becomes a weight that we must carry. We know we did it, and we know no matter how well we have lied or hidden it someone could find out and we might pay the price. If we are caught, we will do the most impressive feats of mental gymnastics to explain it away and justify it. We will say things out of desperation even we don’t find believable. Our only reward for all of that work, our only reward for sin, is a nagging conscience, a weight we must carry our whole lives.
In contrast, is the yoke of Jesus. If we live as he teaches, as difficult as that may be at times, there will be no burden, no weight to carry around with us. Who hides the fact that they have fed the poor? No person has ever said, “I am ashamed and feel so guilty for giving to charity.” No one has ever apologized for forgiving someone. Can you imagine what this would look like? “I’m so sorry for forgiving you.” No! These things don’t happen because there is no reason for them too. We do not feel shame or guilt or try to cover up when we have done what we know to be right. When we live as we should we enjoy having the light shown upon our actions, not out of a sense of boasting, but because it is pleasant to rejoice in the good things of the world. To care for the poor is an uplifting action. To see someone do good in the world makes us feel better, it gives us hope. To take the words of Jesus seriously and live the Christian life is to be progressively happier. It is to cast off the burdens of sin and guilt and take up the light and easy yoke of Christ.
This doesn’t mean we won’t suffer. Look at Jesus. They crucified him. But even in that moment they could not burden him. Even after they had tortured and abused him and nailed him to a cross, he wasn’t angry, he did not harbor hatred for them, he had no bitterness in his soul. With the entire weight of human sin laid upon him, Christ felt no burden, but was completely free. He was so free that he could forgive them, he could turn to the Father and ask that their sins, their burdens, be taken away from them so they could know his peace. This is what Jesus offers all of us. “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.”