14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Note & Bulletin)

Pope Francis has asked an important question: If we are a people of Easter and, are therefore, a people of joy, why is it that we often look as if we’ve come from a funeral?  I think if one were to ask a person their impression of being a Catholic Christian, the person would likely speak of the strictness of practicing the faith.  It is as if our faith and religion were constituted by a whole bunch of “No’s!”  I remember while I was in Jamaica, the custom was for adult baptism.  The reasons given were that people should decide for themselves when to enter the Christian faith, and when one became a Christian one could no longer do the things prohibited by the church.  It was like saying, “Go have your fun and then come to church.”  It is with this understanding that the Lord’s teaching in this week’s Gospel can feel unconvincing to many of us.  

Christ says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Jesus does not hint that in following him, one’s fun and joy comes to an end.  On the contrary, there is a promise of peace, contentment, gentleness, acceptance and life.  As St. Paul writes in the Second Reading, “If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to you.”  The burden we are given to share comes from the yoke that we carry in our hearts.  The yoke of the Lord’s redemption and salvation is indeed light.  

I think we can accept and share in his yoke by seeing and experiencing it as the gift of his love.  I know for myself, I spent years trying to be the perfect Christian and Jesuit.  My life was filled with a whole bunch of “shoulds.”  And because there were so many “shoulds,” there was a whole bunch of personal disappointments carried in my heart.  I wished I could be different – a different person, a different Jesuit.  If I were different, I believed then and only then could I be embraced and loved by God.  I felt as if I needed to achieve his love, I needed to earn it.  And so, my faith was not one of joy nor did it feel as if the Lord’s yoke was light.  It felt heavy, and expressed the sadness and frustration of always feeling as if I had disappointed God.  What changed my faith and life was the experience and knowledge of the personal love of God.  As we grow in our faith, we grow in the knowledge in our heart of his love.  It is an incredible thing to know that while I’m not the most faithful Christian, the wisest Jesuit, the smartest student, the most graceful athlete, or the most organized and prepared Pastor, I am, at the same time, fully and absolutely loved by the Father.  Each of us can write a different sentence of the things that aren’t perfect within us, but what comes after our list is the same – we are fully and absolutely loved by the Father.  The yoke we carry in our hearts is light; in fact, I would say that it is life and life abundantly.  And so church, the Lord has given each of us life and that life is his love.

God Bless and Take Care!

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