Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 5/6, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.
If only Jesus had stopped there.
But nope, Jesus keeps right on going, uttering an invitation that I have always struggled with. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.
Now I don’t know about you, but being yoked to anything does not sound like an enjoyable experience. When I see a team of oxen laboring to drag a plow through the dirt, I don’t get this inclination to run and join them in their pursuit.
Which is why I have always struggled with this passage. If Jesus wants to give us rest, shouldn’t he be removing the yoke, not giving us one?
I put that question to one of my friends as I was preparing this homily and he gave me a great bit of insight that provided a whole new perspective.
He looked at me and said, “Brian, we are all yoked to something.”
Some of those yokes are wonderful things: family, friends, a job we love, a hobby we are passionate about. But just because we enjoy them does not mean that they don’t involve work. It’s just work we don’t mind doing.
And then there are those yokes that we don’t desire, that we didn’t choose. Financial burdens that we carry, addictions that we struggle against, illnesses that we have been battling for far too long, routines that are no longer life-giving. We find ourselves laboring to bear these as well.
Maybe the question is not whether or not we should be carrying a yoke at all. Maybe the question you should be asking is, “How do I know if I am carrying Christ’s yoke?”
With a new question to ponder, I left for my vacation to Italy. Now, what better place could I ask for in my quest to discover Christ’s yoke? With a church on every corner and a vineyard on every hill, I was certain I would find Christ’s yoke for me.
I began my quest at St. Peter’s in Rome. I marveled at the grandeur, the power that radiated from that building. I was truly in awe. And yet, I did not find Christ’s yoke.
So I continued on to the home of Francis of Assist. I climbed into his mountain caves. I drank deep of the feelings of serenity, peace and simplicity that pervaded that space. And yet, I did not find Christ’s yoke.
So I decided to go with the heavy hitters. I journeyed to Annecy and prayed before the tombs of Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. Surely Christ’s yoke could be found where my entire Salesian tradition began. But alas, it was not.
I headed a home a tad disappointed.
But as I pulled up to my home at Christ our King in Wilmington and began to wade into the preparations for the middle school summer program I was running the next day, it hit me. This was Christ’s yoke for me.
See I had been looking for a one-size-fits all yoke. But I was wrong. I discovered that Christ makes all of our ordinary yokes his own when we choose to allow him to be yoked beside us. For it is only then that a yoke can become easy.
Some of these yokes he will gradually unhook us from. Freeing us from the self-destruction contained within them.
Other yokes he will provide his strength so that we can endure the labors that lie before us.
And still other he will transform for us. Making sure that the yoke fits just right by inviting us to become more humble, more gentle, more patient, more compassionate, more forgiving so that we may be better spouses, friends, siblings, co-workers, people.
All we have to do is invite him to shoulder these yokes with us.
Today, once again my friends, we are given an invitation.
May we have the humility and the courage to allow our yokes to become Christ’s.
May God be Praised.