Thursday, July 17, 2014

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Do you listen?"

"All knowledge is sterile which does not lead to action and end in charity." - Cardinal Desire Joseph Mercier (Belgian educator)

Gospel Text: (MT 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.”

While the image of a yoke was familiar to Jesus’ audience, we modern readers may not be able to relate to a yoke and how it works. A yoke is made for two, like a team of oxen. When oxen are young, they are taught to pull together when hitched to the yoke. When one ox tries to go one way and the other a different way, they experience the pain of pulling against the yoke. The harder they fight it, the worse it gets. In a sense, the yoke punishes and burdens them. But when both are going in the same direction, the yoke actually makes their work much easier. Usually one ox is in the lead, setting the direction, and the second ox learns how to follow. Over time they learn the positive and negative effects of the yoke, until practice makes perfect.

This helps us understand Jesus’ saying that being yoked to him lightens our burdens. That’s the way a yoke is supposed to work! It teaches us to let the “lead ox” set the course. It teaches us to follow the One who is walking beside us. We experience what happens as we try to go our own way. We see how fighting God’s lead causes us pain. As Paul understood in Acts 26:14, by “kicking against the goad” (a tool used to drive oxen), he only hurt himself. But when he followed Jesus, he was far more peaceful—and far more fruitful!

Because we are humans, we are designed to learn through trial and (sometimes painful) error. That may sound harsh, but we can be confident that Jesus is extremely patient. He never stops loving us and trying to lead us. He knows that we will become more docile to his leading as we experience the wonderful effects of following him. He is confident that we will learn.

When we think we are strong, when our illusions make us susceptible to believing we are powerful, we may think of ourselves as being free to do whatever pleases us. But when we look soberly, we see only our footprints, which soon disappear as the sand is blown by the wind. But we are meant for eternal significance, and we cry out to God for deliverance.

Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy—because the One who leads us is walking beside us in the yoke. He shares all of our burdens. He invites us to enter into his rest. All he asks is that we follow his lead.

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