14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
After celebrating the three great feasts, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi, that bring the Easter season to its conclusion, we have entered into what the Church calls Ordinary time. Ordinary time refers to that time of the Church year that is not associated with Christmas or Easter. During Ordinary time the priest will usually wear vestments of green, the color of hope. In a way these Sundays after Easter will give us an idea of what the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus means for us.
In today’s first reading from the Book of Zechariah the prophet speaks of a day when the burdens laid on people by their oppressors will be lifted.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
Chariots, horses, and the warriors bow are instruments of oppression and military conquest. The overlords of the people often put heavy burdens on their subjects. On the Fourth of July we celebrated our own Declaration of Independence whereby our founding fathers threw off the yoke of British oppression.
However, even though we live in the freest country in the World, there is a kind of oppression or burden that hits very close to home. I will never forget an incident that occurred years ago when I was a financial advisor. I visited an elderly couple in their home one evening to look over their finances. The man sat stooped over the kitchen table after his long commute home. The train ride to New York City took over an hour each way, but then he had to take a subway, and then walk a few blocks to his office. He hated the long commute and was sick of his job, which he had been doing for years.
After looking over the financial situation, I told them that there was no reason for him to continue working. They lived very frugally, and the income from their savings and investments was more than enough for them to retire comfortably. I was amazed when the man slowly raised his head and shoulders as if a great burden had been lifted. This miracle was not my doing but theirs. They had worked hard but just didn’t realize how well they had done.
It’s the same thing with most of us. I’m not just talking about finances now. Why do teenagers seem to be so gloomy and depressed? Why is there such addiction among young people? Why is there such a high rate of teen suicide? Why, in the years when they should feel the most free, do young people have to say what their friends want to hear; follow peer pressure and do what their friends want them to do? Why do they feel that they must smoke this, or drink that in order to be socially acceptable?
As we get older the burdens seem to get even greater. So many of us have had a yoke placed upon our shoulders by our friends and family. Indeed, sometimes we are the ones who have placed the burden on our own shoulders. We all know the stress of family relationships, job insecurity, raising children, or caring for aged parents. Half the country seems to be on some sort of medication, legal or illegal, to relieve the burdens. Who is there to lift the yoke from our backs.
Here is a good way to tell a true from a false friend. A true friend helps us to bear life’s burdens; a false one just piles more weight on our backs. In fact, the good friend is the one who actually lightens the load by sharing it with us. In today’s gospel Jesus is trying to make us realize that our burdens have been lifted.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, For I am meek and humble of heart;… For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Christ suffered so that we would not have to. He told us to be humble and not proud; to care for our neighbor instead of always thinking of ourselves. He was always healing people. Did he ever hurt anyone? Jesus continually criticized the Pharisees for their rules and regulations that put innumerable burdens on people.
St. Paul was born and raised a Pharisee. In fact, he said he was a kind of super-Pharisee who followed all rules to their minutest detail. After his conversion, however, he realized that living in the Spirit and not in the flesh was the road to happiness.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, But if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, You will live.
Right before today’s Eucharistic prayer, the priest will ask the congregation to “lift up your hearts,” which is just a way of saying lift up your spirits and prepare to throw off the yoke that burdens.
Reading 1. Zechariah 9: 9-10
Reading II. Romans 8:9, 11-13
Gospel. Matthew 11: 25-30 (my yoke is easy)