Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9.11-13; Matthew 11:25-30
The theme of today’s readings is very much one of peace and consolation. The God of peace comes to us in a very special way to give us his consolation and accept us as his own. During the Gospel reading today, we heard Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we live our Christian life as a new creation, enjoying the gifts that we have received during the Sacrament of Baptism, we think spiritually. In the First Reading from the Book of Zechariah, we heard the Old Testament prophecy that promised the coming of our King who would arrive in Jerusalem, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The scene is one of humility but also of peace. This event identified Jesus as the One who was to rule as the King of kings in the spiritual Jerusalem from above. As Saint Paul tells us in today’s second reading that if the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies by His indwelling in us. But to continue to dwell in us, we must welcome the Holy Spirit. We must have faith in Christ.
Our God is a God of peace and consolation. We have the message at his birth given by the angels to all: Peace to those of good will. At the resurrection Jesus appears to the disciples and the first message that he gives is of Peace. He tells them Peace be with you. And he wants them all to have it to the full. Yet when we read the Gospels we are not just given that peace. He tells his disciples that he has come to bring the sword. There will be the divisions in the family. He tells his disciples to be his followers only after they set aside their parents relations and al worldly attachments. He tells them not to be in a hurry to be his disciples. He wants them to sit and count the cost. Following Christ is all or nothing, you cannot at the same time serve God and long for material possessions. He is a master who makes heavy demands of his followers before accepting him.
Today’s Gospel further continues to make similar demand to give one’s self to the Lord. It still calls for total giving of self, not as the denial of that self but as the only way to find one’s true self. At the same time, our God is a God of infinite patience and compassion as we stumble along in our efforts to unite ourselves fully with him. He says, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.” Whenever we are confronted with difficulties, hardships, challenges, he is there close to us giving us his support.
Certainly we are all familiar with the story of the foot steps. Once a man had a dream and he dreamt that he was walking with God on the sea shore. As he went he could see on the sky two sets of foot prints. But he was surprised to see that at certain times particularly when he was in difficulty or trouble there was only one set of foot prints. He complained about this to God. Then God smiled at him and said, my child those were the precious moments when you see one set of foot prints. That moment I carried you in my arms.
Therefore Whatever demands life may be making on us, Jesus is there as our support. When we are in difficulties and pain, we struggle and we ask him to take our pains and hurts away. He may not always do so but we can expect him to restore our peace. We must remember that Jesus is not to be seen as an escape from our problems but as some one who will give us peace, not from our pain but within our pain. He is there to carry us in his arms and take care of us.
Jesus’ own life is an excellent example. He had his own share of sufferings. When in the garden of Gethsemane, he was confronted with his sufferings. His prayer was that his chalice or suffering be taken away from him. This was indeed a perfectly normal human reaction to the threat of death. But he adds, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you desire.” His request was not granted but he has his consolation, namely his inner peace. His prayer had been answered, although not in the way he had requested.
So Jesus says today, “Shoulder my yoke… and you will find rest… Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke we think of as a heavy piece of wood placed on the shoulders of an ox. But, because of the yoke, the ox can pull the weight of the cart behind it more easily. It is a burden which is also a help. The words of Jesus often seem, at first sight, to be very painful and hurting, yet they are also a support. There is still another way of understanding the image of the yoke. Think of it as a double yoke, where two oxen can work together better. We now have a lovely image of Jesus and us using the yoke together, and pulling together. “Shoulder my yoke” then becomes “Share my yoke”. Where I go, he goes along with me, pulling together with me and making it all the easier. This coordination with Jesus gives new meaning to life. Thus we have a call from him: We are called to be with Jesus all the way, accepting his life vision, his standards, and his values – unconditionally. This calls for the simplicity and openness of children rather than intellectual sophistication. Accepting Jesus all the way is not intended as a burden but as a source of comfort, peace, liberation and joy.