14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zec 9:9-10 / PS 124:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 / Rom 8:9, 11-13 / MT 11:25-30
In today’s Gospel from St Matthew we hear, Jesus say, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” When we hear this promise of Jesus we can be tempted to shrug it off because as anyone who has seriously tried to live a Christian life knows, following after Christ can be hard. After all, Jesus says just 5 chapters later in the Gospel of Matthew, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
All we have to do is look at the cross to see that the cross is not an easy yoke or a light burden. Those of us who have sincerely taken up our cross and tried to follow after Christ know that at times it doesn’t feel like a light burden. Yet I take Jesus at His word so today’s gospel begs the questions how can Christ claim that His yoke is easy and His burden light, when we know it can often be a challenge?
The key to Christ’s promise that His yoke is easy and His burden is light is found in today’s second reading from St. Paul. Christ says that His yoke is easy because His Spirit dwells within us. At our baptism we were grafted onto the body of Christ and because of our baptism the Spirit of God dwells within us. We do not journey this pilgrimage of life alone, but rather Christ journeys with us, showing us the way to the Father.
As many of you know a yoke, is a wooden crosspiece fastened on the neck of two animals so that they can plow. The animal isn’t alone under the weight of the crosspiece: there’s another animal there to help him. The yoke Christ gives to us is not easy because the life we are called to is easy but rather it is easy because it is Christ Himself who is tethered to that yoke with us and helps us on our way.
When I think of a yoke I cannot help but also think of the cross. As we recall Christ’s journey with the cross up to the place of His death we recall that Simon of Cyrene was called out of the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. Today we are invited to see ourselves as Simon, carrying the cross with Jesus. Christ who conquered death by His sacrifice on the cross is there to help us carry our cross.
Christ can truly say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light not because the way of the cross, the Christian way of life is easy, but because He is there to carry it with us. Christ doesn’t promise us an easy journey, no our journey is difficult because he calls us to greatness. I remember my senior year of undergrad I was invited to take a graduate philosophy class from a world famous professor on a 16th century philosophical debate about nations as people and the rights that states have and by extension corporations as people and what rights they have. When the professor asked me to take the class I asked him why he cared so much about a couple of us undergraduates. His response was simple, I see potential in you guys and I know you can use what I am teaching to make a difference in the world. I have to admit I think he was like most teachers, thinking their subject is the most important, and I’m not sure if I will ever use that knowledge to better the world but I know his patience and the discipline of the course made me a better person. This class was by far the most difficult class I have ever taken but the professor, while demanding allot, was always available after class hours in his office to help me. I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent in his office and the amount of pain that class caused me but due to his generosity I was able to work through the difficulties and master the material. While what the teacher was demanding was difficult and time consuming I turned out better for it. In fact just last week I received a call from a lawyer friend of mine who works on Capital Hill asking if I knew anything about the understanding of corporations as people, and well surprisingly I had answers for him. Well Jesus tells us today to come and learn from Him, He wants to teach us. Jesus is like that world class professor I had, he demands allot because he sees the potential we have, the potential for eternal life, but he is also their every step of the way to help us along.
Even amidst the struggles which make us stronger we are not alone. During our most agonizing trials, we’re never alone. Since Christ walks that road with us we should not try to turn away from the cross, rather we should embrace our cross knowing that Christ who has already conquered death is there carrying our cross with us leading us to His Father and eternal life.
As Catholics we are privileged to come before Jesus and receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Himself comes to us as our nourishment to help us on our journey. As Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is raised before our eyes in just a few moments why not take the opportunity to offer to Jesus all of those difficulties of our life. As we approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, why not invite Him into our lives to help us carry our cross for when the going gets tough we know Christ, who suffered the extreme death on a cross and conquered death is their journeying with us.
 Mt 11:28-30.