Struggling with Comforting Words
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
These words of Jesus are perhaps the most comforting of the whole Gospel. Jesus is talking to real people and offering them an alternative to the burdens that the world lays upon them. We love hearing them, but deep down we struggle with their meaning.
Let’s take inventory of the situation the vast majority of people find themselves by answering the following questions: Do we often get weary of the demands of daily life? Even if we have an abundance or lack of resources do we carry some heavy burdens (either trying to make ends meet or always trying to keep up with the Jones’s)? Do we feel like yoked animals plowing a field, but wandering all over and directionless? Does the world seem to be a hard place to live sometimes? Are people harsh with one another?
If we answer “yes” to some or all of these questions, then Jesus is telling his disciples and us, his modern day disciples, that we need to come to him to find relief in carrying the heavy burdens that life presents to us.
There’s a cute expression we sometimes hear these days. “We need to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting with someone.” Doesn’t “Come to Jesus” in this phrase mean that someone must recognize a situation and respond- or else? We’ve turned around the tone of Jesus’ invitation to come to him for help and relief from the way in which the world lives and made this “coming to Jesus” something heavy and burdensome. Isn’t that true?
If we want to make progress in really coming to Jesus perhaps we have to admit that we have some problems with the whole notion. We honestly believe that to deal with people in the world with gentleness and humility is problematic. Dealing with situations in this world takes strength and toughness. A “milk toast” approach just won’t work. We like to hear these comforting words of Jesus, but at the same time they disturb and scandalize us, offending our worldly sensibilities by their appearance of weakness. How can we achieve our worldly goals and fulfill our desires if we hitch our dreams to Jesus’ wagon?
Let me pay heavy taxes (most of which goes to buy weapons of mass destruction). Let me worry about whether my health care coverage will continue or not. Let me worry about my job or need for one. Let me worry about having enough to live on, or if I do have plenty of resources, getting all the things I want to have and then properly protect them from others. How about the situation many find themselves in of wondering where their next meal is going to come from? These are the heavy burdens of the world in which we live. Is Jesus going to pay the bills or put food on the table or secure my next “must have,” or win the battle against terrorism? The world’s wisdom is that we must look out for ourselves, for Number One, “every man for himself.”
When Jesus says to “come to me” he’s not saying that we won’t confront the heavy burdens the world lays on us. There are always burdens that can be heavy or light. “Come to me” refers to a special wisdom that is given to those who try to imitate Jesus, especially in his complete trust in his Father’s will, his gentleness and humility, and in his merciful and forgiving way with people. Imitating Jesus, we don’t require more and more “defensive” weapons that threaten relationships and increase fear, and require heavy taxes to pay for them. Instead, resources would be available for those unable to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” There would be less tension between nations and people. The belligerent would find themselves either isolated or won over.
This is the “yoke” Jesus offers us. It’s not the yoke of a beast of burden, but an education in wisdom gained from following the right Master. (The original meaning of the word referred to a young man leaving his home and parents to join himself to a teacher.) The Wisdom from above that Jesus incarnated here on earth always has non-violence, dialogue, and mercy as a foundation. The word “gentle” (praus) in the Gospel and today’s first reading means to be non-violent.
This teaching of Jesus is completely missed by the “wise and clever” of this world who should know better, but don’t. Jesus’ teaching is revealed to “infants,” those who haven’t yet been “culturalized” by the world, who understand what he is talking about. Here at the altar we step back from the everyday wisdom of the world, and repenting, choose a yoke that is easy and light, and, feeding on Jesus’ Body and Blood, receive Jesus’ wisdom and peace.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
|The Reverend John Smith, Vicar|
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE