Remade and Refreshed through Yoking Ourselves to Jesus, Fifteenth Thursday (II), July 17, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette’s Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
July 17, 2014
Is 26:7-9.12.16-19, Ps 102, Mt 11:28-30

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we continue to ponder how we come to have the good and fruitful soil Jesus told us on Sunday he wants us all to have. At the end of yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus described it as the soil of those are spiritually childlike, who aren’t so focused on their own words that they’re able to receive the Word of God within. Jesus finished by rejoicing in the Father’s will that to the childlike he would reveal the Father and the mysteries of the kingdom. That leads immediately to today’s Gospel, which is part of the same conversation. Jesus seeks to draw us all into that relationship of divine filiation together with him so that, attached to him like branches to the Vine, we might bear 30, 60 or 100-fold fruit that will last. Today Jesus gives us three verbs that indicate the path he wants us all to take.
  • The first action is to “come.” “Come to me,” he says, all you who labor and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” He extends to us the invitation, with all that we’re going through, with all the various obstacles and challenges, with all the hardened, rocky or thorny soil, to come to him. In the first reading, the people of Judah articulated some of those burdens through the prophet Isaiah when they said, “O Lord, oppressed by your punishment, we cried out in anguish. … As a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so were we in your presence, O Lord.” But the main burdens Jesus was describing were the spiritual burdens placed on their shoulders by the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus said about them that “they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:4). They were crushing people not merely under the bombardment of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Covenant but by their interpretation of them and of the strictures necessary not to come close to violating them. They were piling up duties without introducing them into a relationship with the God who gave the real commandments to train us how to love Him and love others. They were being instructed to carry those burdens without God and without love. Jesus wanted to help save them from those burdens. He called us to come to him so that he would “refresh” us. The word translated “refresh” actually means “remake.” He wants to give us a totally fresh start, a new beginning. In Psalm 23, we pray in anticipation of this remaking, “The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I lack. In green pastures you lead me to grace and besides restful waters you refresh [remake] me.” He thoroughly remakes us in his image and baptism and that life is meant to continue. To be good soil and bear good fruit we first need to come to Christ with all our problems and let him remake us.
  • The second action is to “take” or “assume.” Jesus tells us “Take my yoke upon you.”  Jesus doesn’t tell us to bend down and let him put the yoke on us. He wants us to take it. He wants us to want it. What’s that yoke? We know that a yoke is a harness — Jesus doubtless used the make them as a carpenter in Joseph’s shop in Nazareth —  to unite two animals so that they might work in tandem. Jesus wants us to take up “his” yoke and his yoke is the patibulum of the Cross. Later he’ll say that his yoke is “easy,” which means that it is “easy-fitting,” it’s tailor-made, for us, to unite us to him, like the Cross on Calvary was the shoe that fit perfectly Simon of Cyrene’s feet. And it was that yoked Cross that Simon and Jesus carried that plowed the field of the world to make it fruitful by Jesus’ fertilizing the soil with his saving blood. To be yoked with Jesus is literally to be con (with) jugum (yoke), to be his spouse, his conjugal partner. When Jesus says “Come,” he’s proposing, and when he says “Take,” we’re called to respond, “I take you as my spouse, … for better or worse, in sickness or in health, all the days of my life.” To be yoked to Jesus means to live the spousal Covenant with Jesus all our days, and when we are living together with him, we find that our burdens are light and sweet because of the mutual love with Jesus that changes their weight and bitterness. The second condition for being good soil and bearing good fruit is to be yoked in a spousal Covenant with Christ on the marriage bed of the Cross.
  • The third action is to “learn.” Jesus says, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves.” The way we learn from Jesus is not in a classroom seated on a chair. It’s by being yoked in this loving covenantal bond with Jesus. And when we are living in that union, then we not only learn “from” Jesus, but as the Greek of St. Matthew’s Gospel says more literally we learn Jesus. He tells us to “learn me.” We learn his humility, which is essential to receive his gifts on good soil. We learn his meekness, which is the self-disciplined tameness that allows us calmly to find our strength in God. We’ve got so much to learn from him, but we first must come, then we must take on his yoke, we must spousally unite ourselves to him permanently, and then we will learn from him all we need.
  • The great place where we respond to Jesus in each of these three ways is here at Mass. It’s at Mass that Jesus says,  “Come to me, all you who labor and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” He seeks to remake us here by his word, by his own body and blood, by his community, so that in this two-fold communion we might face all those labors and burdens. It’s here at Mass that he says, “Take my yoke upon you.” This is where we enter into a conjugal union, a yoke together with him, from the inside out. It’s here at Mass he says, “Learn me,” as he seeks to teach us and make us sharers in all his virtues. It’s through Holy Communion that we become one with him as the great teacher continues to teach and remake us so that we may together with him bear abundant fruit that will last.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
IS 26:7-9, 12, 16-19

The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 102:13-14AB AND 15, 16-18, 19-21

R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.
For her stones are dear to your servants,
and her dust moves them to pity.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Gospel
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.”