July 9, 2023
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
“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.” Matthew 11:28–30
Around the year 167 BC, two new groups of religious leaders emerged within Judaism: the scribes and Pharisees. By the time that Jesus walked the earth, these religious leaders had developed many customs, false doctrines and religious practices that they claimed were derived from the Law of Moses. However, Jesus condemned their teachings as scrupulous, self-centered, and hypocritical. What they taught was often a distortion of the Law. Recall, for example, that the Pharisees condemned the disciples for picking heads of wheat and eating them on the Sabbath, claiming that this violated the Third Commandment. Clearly, Jesus taught that it didn’t.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to those “who labor and are burdened” and invites them to carry the light and easy yoke that He will give them. In other words, Jesus is identifying the fact that the scribes and Pharisees had so distorted the Law of Moses that the practice of the Jewish faith had become a burden that was too difficult to carry. In contrast, Jesus’ New Law of grace was freeing, light, and easy.
When you consider Jesus’ many teachings, do you see them as easy to follow? Or do they seem to be too much at times? For example, Jesus said to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This was not only an invitation, it was also a command and a requirement. So are Jesus’ teachings easy? Or are they overwhelming?
Of course, since Jesus Himself says that “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” then we can be certain that they are. Jesus not only calls us to moral perfection, He also gives us the means by which we can obtain it. By analogy, say someone told you to move a boulder that weighed 2,000 pounds. Could you do that? You could if the person also gave you a large tractor to use for the task. In that case, it would be as easy as using the machine correctly. So it is with all that our Lord asks of us. When we find some moral obligation to be difficult or even overwhelming, then we are not relying upon the grace that God has given us to fulfill His command.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ gentle invitation to you to embrace the “yoke” of perfection. Do not see it as too much. Rather, see it as a joyous invitation from our Lord. Ponder the fact that God not only calls you to the heights of holiness, He also provides you with the means to obtain it. Have faith in His almighty power and open yourself to it more fully so that You will be able to do anything and everything our Lord asks of you with ease and joy.
My gentle Lord, You place upon my shoulders Your own yoke to carry. I say “Yes” to all that You ask of me, and I thank You for bestowing Your mercy upon me. Please remove every yoke from me that is not from You, so that I can follow You with the joy of the light burden of Your grace. Jesus, I trust in You.