-+Dear Sisters and Brothers,
(This submission was delayed because I forgot to send it; so, it comments on last week’s readings. Hopefully, our readers will find some application to their fellowship with Christ this week. Msgr. McGuirl.)
Just before the incident in today’s Gospel, Jesus has been reproaching the citizens of the town of Capernaum, the home base of His Galilean ministry. They have not heeded His teachings even after seeing the His deeds. Now He contrasts others, who might reject Him: the scribes and the Pharisees – those who promulgated the 613 or 620 Laws that sprang from the original 10. He compares them to the “little ones” – not necessarily children but those of really no account; most of His disciples – think the 12 apostles; fishermen, a tax collector, a young man, and a revolutionary thinker – no accounts in their own time. These are the ones who finally will commit themselves totally to Him. It is to such as these nobodies that the Father welcomes into the divine family.
Jesus tells His followers: “Take – take my yoke upon you and learn from Me – you who labor and are burdened – My yoke is easy and My burden light”. If you have been down in Amish country near Lancaster Pennsylvania or perhaps in Ohio where there are large Amish settlements, you will notice that, for the most part, the farmers do not use gasoline-powered tractors or bailers or harvesters but the motive power is horses – the horses are hitched together – yoked if you wish – so that they help one another with their tasks – so that they work together. In our Lord’s time usually oxen – large bovine animals – were used. In pictures of rural areas in the Philippines or Southeast Asia, you will see the oxen with a large wooden collar across their necks. The large wooden collar is the yoke and it serves the same purpose. The task is better accomplished by the two animals working in tandem with one another. In contrast to many rules formulated by the scribes and Pharisees, our Lord’s yoke is easy. In the original Greek, that word “easy” could also mean useful, worthy, good and pleasant and straightforward.
Jesus, He is meek and humble of heart – folks, that does not mean He was some sort of withering vine, afraid to speak up – He did and often. It means He is the Leader but One who does not overpower others with His superior position – indeed His divinity. He is considerate and unassuming. He is not like some aloof boss, who piles the work on the laborers and does nothing to help. Jesus notices and helps us to ease our lot – He is yoked to us!
In the first reading taken from the prophet Zechariah – the early Church recognized an application to Jesus. Jesus does not come in triumphal grandeur – He does not establish His kingdom by conquest. He will work quietly – yoked to those who belong to Him and to His Father in each generation. So in time, His kingdom will spread from Jerusalem – “His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the River (probably a reference to either the Euphrates of the Nile – the limits of the Biblical world) to the ends of the earth”. He will ride an ass or donkey, which were used by kings on peaceful missions, as opposed to the war horses used for pitched battles.
Humbly Jesus provides for those striving to bring justice and peace into a world still inclined toward violence and war. We are called to be those disciples and yet humbly we acknowledge that we are sinners; we are in a word, imperfect. Some wits have often said – I don’t go to Church or belong to a Church because it is filled with sinners, hypocrites, who say one thing and do another. Well, that’s correct but there is always room for one or two more. That Penitential rite, which begins Mass, indicates that we come to the altar, yes to do God’s work but while also acknowledging our faults.
Folks, that’s all of us: our leaders, our historical figures, who if we judge only on their faults and sins, we do not get the full picture. Who of us would want to be judged only on the negatives in our lives, real and serious as they sometimes can be? Yet despite our shortcomings God in His ineffable mercy calls us – you and me. You want a good example of the type He calls – look at the first Twelve. Could Jesus not have done better than that crowd? Sometimes the question may arise why the Church recognizes a particular person as a saint (if they are in heaven they are saints even if we never publically recognize or canonize them!): Peter with his thick-headedness and who denied the Lord in His moment of need; Paul with His irascibility, John Vianney with his dimness, Theresa of Calcutta with her strictness, Junipero Serra, who may have engaged in what we now call “tough love”; Louis IX of France, who held, unfortunately, some of the same prejudices of his society – 11th century France – against non-Christians. The answer is that like us, we hope and pray that in the final analysis our good will outweigh the bad – certainly that’s my prayer for me.
The Church is composed of those little ones, those sinners, who have seen the vision of Jesus and tried to grasp it and who are working sometimes not too well toward perfection. If all of us were perfect – no need for a Church. All of us are imperfect but the Lord calls us for a unique task – His ambassadors in the world: imperfect, corrupted, dumb and misunderstanding as all of us can be. If it were not so we would be reduced to naming our Churches and institutions after only two People; Our blessed Lord and His Mother, Mary. Every other one is named after a saint who was imperfect but striving toward the goal and finally has reached it while yoked to the Lord.
As the responsorial psalm proclaimed: “The Lord is faithful to all His words and holy in all His works; He lifts up those who are falling – that could be us – He raises up those who were bowed down – that is us.”
God bless you.
Monsignor John A. McGuirl