14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle A - 2007-2008

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First Reading - Zechariah 9:9-10
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
Second Reading - Romans 8:9, 11-13
Gospel - Matthew 11:25-30

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

"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."

"Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mt. 11)

There are times and situations in life which cause doubt or uncertainty about the meaning of Jesus' saying: "Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  You and I can readily recall times when we have seen the incredible courage and acceptance of physical and psychological illnesses which, as the saying goes: "Try the patience of Job."  At such times we run head-on into the so-called 'problem of evil.'  How is it that Jesus described his yoke as "easy" and his burden as "light?"  To this age-old question there is no completely satisfying answer.  We can, however, gain some measure of assurance and trust when we examine the context in which Jesus used those terms.

In Jesus' day, the Torah - the first five books of the Old Testament, (the Law of Moses), was described as a yoke which the Israelites had to bear.  The "yoke," as we know, was the harness placed upon the shoulders of oxen, to draw heavy loads or to plow a field.  In an agrarian culture, the yoke had to fit well on the shoulders of the oxen,  otherwise the task of pulling a heavy load, or of plowing a field, would injure the animals.  There was no such thing as "one size fits all."  The oxen still had to pull the heavy load, but if the yoke fit well, the task was easier on the animals. 

When Jesus was accused of violating the Law of Moses and some of the exacting precepts of Judaism, he replied: "I have come, not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to bring them to fulfillment."  He also observed how the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees placed heavy loads on the shoulders of the people while they, themselves, did not lift a finger to carry the load.  Jesus' fulfillment of the Law and the prophets was based on the 'law of love' - the two greatest commandments of the Law - love of God and neighbor - on which "the whole law and the prophets" depended.  By comparison to the exacting, harsh observance of the Law of Moses, Jesus' teachings were 'easy.'  This does not mean that peoples' lives would be without trials and difficulties.  "Take up your cross daily and follow me," Jesus had said.  It is the reality of life in this world that there will be "wars and rumors of wars,"  sickness and death.

In the liturgy of Christian marriage the celebrant's exhortation to the couple reminds them that personal sacrifices will be required in order to preserve their unity and love.  "Only love can make it easy; perfect love can make it a joy, for we are willing to give in proportion to how we love" (Marriage Exhortation).  I was reminded of the power of sacrificial love while watching the evening news last week.  The newscast highlighted the situation of a young soldier whose limbs had been shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq.  Instead of bemoaning his loss of limbs, this young soldier was traveling around the country speaking to other military personnel who had been seriously maimed in the war.  He was encouraging them to embrace the painful task of rehabilitating both body and spirit.  When the reporter asked the wounded veteran why he devoted himself to helping other maimed soldiers, he replied that he loved his country and his fellow soldiers; and that he would be willing to make the same sacrifices again.  "Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy." (Marriage Exhortation)

Jesus told his followers: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  Not as the world gives, do I give to you."
The peace of Christ comes with the inner realization and disposition of spirit which assures us that despite the turmoil and chaos of life, God's grace is there to help us.  In the words of Psalm 145: "The lord lifts up all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down."

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