Jesus' Yoke Will Liberate US
We are living through a period of unrest and anxiety, not only in America but worldwide. The ongoing social upheavals and the pandemic restrictions are taking their tolls on our psyche and perspectives to life. We are all feeling the crushing weight of the crisis, some more than others. Amidst all these Hard Times, to borrow the title of Charles Dickens 19th century novel, I find comfort and solace in Jesus' words of invitation in the Gospel of this Sunday's Mass: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt.11:28).
Jesus, however, promises to replace the yoke and burden that oppress us with his own when we respond to his call. He offers us freedom from our overwhelming burdens by replacing them with easy yoke and light burden of his Gospel. He makes for us fitting crosses to carry and follow him. "This burden," St. Augustines says in his sermon, "is not a weight at all, it is wings to fly with." His yoke is a sweet one, and his light burden liberates us to live a truly happy life. He reveals this mystery to the little ones who see things with the humble heart of Jesus, but are hidden from the proud who are obsessed with themselves. We need the meek and gentle perspective of Jesus to find freedom from our stress and anxiety. The priest offers this prayer after the Lord's Prayer at Mass: "protect us from all anxiety (distress) as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
When we embrace the yoke of the New Covenant, the Gospel of Jesus, we become truly free of destructive stress and anxiety. Jesus invites us to take on his yoke and bear his burden to free us from the burden of sin and stress. St. Peter tells us to cast all our anxiety on Jesus because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). What are the burdens we carry? Whatever they are, "let us cast them upon the Lord," and he will sustain us (Ps. 55:22). He will give us rest.
On this Fourth of July weekend, I recall the liberating words from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness." These are reassuring words to hear in this time of turmoil. Our founding fathers declared independence from King Goerge III because of the burden of inequality, misrule, and exploitation; they had a list of 27 grievances to highlight the fact of their oppression and the need for freedom. We are still struggling to realize the divine ideals of equality in human dignity and rights, of God-given right to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness. Could it be that we are yet to honor the invitation of the Lord of Life and Liberty, who says, "come to me, …and I will give you rest"? St. Augustine is right when he says in his famous words, "Thou hast formed us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee." To find true freedom from the burden of personal and social sin, we have to accept the yoke and burden of Christ's commandments of sacrificial love; it's the only way we can find lasting rest and true freedom.
Happy Independence Day!
In the Meek and Humble Jesus,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP