Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some years ago, there was a popular image from Fr. Flanagan’s Boystown in Nebraska.  It showed a young boy carrying a smaller boy on his back and saying: He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.  The rest of the homily is just a footnote to that.

Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden light.  What is it that can make it so?  He seems to just be adding another yoke to the ones we already bear.  And he doesn’t offer to remove the burdens we already have.  Burdens, struggles, and suffering are the very stuff of life.  They emerge from the relations we have with others.  We are bound to one another by our obligations, duties, and responsibilities.  Our life is supported by the commitments, permanence, and trust that are communicated and shared among ourselves.  We can count on others and they can count on us.  Much obliged. 

These relationships are not just external ties.  They form and create who we are.  We are revealed to ourselves as well as to others in the way we assume these obligations.  We form our own character in coping with complex reality as we mature and continually respond from new depths of our own being.  These depths are the fertile ground of our humility and meekness, the inner identity and strength which are the basis of a free interaction in the world.  We are being molded and formed by the Spirit of God to invest our being in the world with the creative freedom of God.  We are not debtors to the flesh, but liberators of the Spirit.

The gift of the Spirit creates a new unity within ourselves.  We are yoked in our body, soul, and spirit and drawn away from the hostility that living in the flesh seems to need.  Does being one with our self mean sitting on a couch with a remote control?  Alone in our little bubble?  Living on welfare from the work of others?  Or does the rest that we are offered involve a deepening of the communion already begun in accepting our responsibilities and obligations?

In accepting our own being in Christ, we are led to accepting the yoke He offers to bind us to all of humanity and the whole of creation.  His yoke is light because it transforms all our relationships into free gifts of love.  He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. 

The readings are suffused with the dynamic sense of the freedom brought by God’s spirit.  We ought to share the outburst of wonder Jesus expressed at the unexpected acceptance of what God is revealing by those in fact already close to the freedom of God.  The little ones, the insignificant, those unconcerned with self-promotion and self-preservation are already apt students for the teaching and lessons of the Lord.  The burdens of the yoke are alive when they are accepted and lived in freedom and love.  Acceptance is a deep surrender to the work of the Spirit, a sense of belonging and participating to a reality which exceeds our limits and likes.  In his Rule, Benedict insists that the novice deliberate at length and depth before taking on the yoke of the Rule.  It must be freely and lovingly accepted so that it becomes the inner form of the monk, an obligation lived in Spirit and Truth.  It then becomes easy and light because it binds one to the yoke Christ bore to his crucifixion.  We are his brothers and sisters.