14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     There are some Gospel passages, which at first glance leave me a little perplexed and today’s Gospel is one of those passages. I’ll be honest with you, when I first read today’s Gospel I was not only confused but a little frustrated. How can Jesus say, “come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give your rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?”  Those of us who are trying to follow Christ know that being a Christian is a daily struggle. Even Christ’s life was full of pain and burdens. So how can Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light? Yet, wanting to take Jesus at His word I struggled this week to make sense of Jesus’ invitation.

     Ultimately, I found the answer to His invitation in today’s 2nd reading where St. Paul reminds the Romans, that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. At our baptism, we were grafted onto the body of Christ, and so we do not journey this pilgrimage of life alone, but rather Christ journeys with us.  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.

     Friends, our Christian faith is not magic. Jesus does not promise to take away our burdens and pains, but rather He does something far better. He extends an invitation to us to be yoked to Him. He invites each of us to pull our pains and burdens through this life with him, sharing His yoke, drawing on His strength. After all Christ doesn’t do things for us, He does things with us.

     The Christian life is not easy because the life we are called to is not easy. “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”[1] Jesus tells He us His yoke is easy because it is Christ Himself who is tethered to that yoke with us, to help us on our way.  Amidst whatever burdens or anxieties, we are experiencing, we are never alone. 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 those burdens in your life. As you approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, why not invite Him into our life to help you carry those burdens?

     All of us have our own burdens. Sadly, when we experience burdens in this life we often fall into the trap of placing the burden solely on ourselves. Regardless of what the external burden is, self-doubt, self-blame and guilt often seem to set in. We began to say things like, “these difficulties are my fault,” “if only I tried harder,” “If only I had done this or that” etc.

     Friends, if you find yourself weighed down with shame or guilt, the only way to lift it is to yoke yourself to Christ. Jesus never met anyone whose sins were so great that they couldn’t be forgiven, the only thing Jesus could not forgive was the unforgiven spirit, the person that refused to allow Christ into their life to walk with them. Some of the most powerful moments of my priesthood have come in the confessional or in my office, when talking with a person who has been struggling with a burden for a long time. As they walk in, it is obvious that something is internally tearing them apart, and usually after a few moments and allot of tears, I have the privilege of watching them confess or share the burden, and you can immediately see a new person. Sure, that first meeting doesn’t fix everything, but from the moment the burden is lifted you can actually see a physical change in the person.

     When I think of a yoke I cannot help but think also 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. During our most agonizing trials, we’re never alone. Christ who conquered death by His sacrifice on the cross is there to help us carry our cross. With Christ at our side we can’t turn away from the cross, rather we must 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.

     While life throws many difficulties at us, Jesus doesn’t promise some magical solution to our troubles. He offers something that makes life beautiful even amidst the struggles. “Come to me,” He cries, “all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus invites us to take His yoke by identifying ourselves with Him; by identify our destiny with His destiny, our vision with His vision, and our mission with His mission. The choice is ours, we can try to shoulder all the burdens of this life on our own, or we can yoke ourselves to Christ and allow Him to share the burden with us. What’s your choice?

[1] Attributed to Pope Benedict XVI

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