“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, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I need to hear these words often these days. Life can certainly become burdensome at times. We have all experienced this at some time in our lives. However, those of us who believe in the goodness and mercy of God know the One to whom we can always turn, the Lord Jesus.
In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah envisions a hopeful future. He consoles the Jews living in Palestine under Greek rule, promising them a “meek” Messianic King of peace, riding on a donkey, who will give them rest and liberty. He would rule them in peace and prosperity. Although this is interpreted as a Messianic prophecy and is applied to Jesus, the promised Messiah, in the days of Zechariah, the promise simply referred to an “anointed person,” or a king. Anointment was the essence of the royal enthronement ceremony in Judah. During Jesus’ time, kings used donkeys for ceremonial rides in times of peace and rode a horse during wartime. This was an indication that the purpose of the King in Israel was not imperialism but justice and fidelity to a higher, invisible King–God. Thus, the prophet was promising that the people enslaved by the Greeks and the Babylonians would have their long-awaited rest, peace and prosperity.
In the second reading, Paul speaks of two yokes, namely, the “flesh” and the “spirit;” flesh — sin and burden, and spirit — freedom and living in right relationship and communion with God. Before the coming of the Lord Jesus, we were in the flesh, and lived in sin. Paul, then says, if we belong to Christ, the Spirit of God dwells in us, and He will set us free from the flesh and will restore our mortal bodies to life. Though we cannot rescue ourselves from “this body of death,” we have been rescued by Christ. Even so, we remain under the yoke of the flesh to the extent that we try to save ourselves and “earn” salvation by our own unaided efforts in keeping all the rules and regulations in the finest detail. We are called to be yoked to the Spirit, to let the Spirit dwell in us, sanctifying us not by our works, but by the undeserved grace of God.
In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus condemns intellectual pride. He knows that ordinary people with large, sensitive hearts can accept the “Good News” he preaches, while proud intellectuals cannot, because of their hardness of heart. Even the learned rabbis of Jesus’ time recognized that the simplest people were often nearer to God than the wisest. In the next part of the Gospel, Jesus makes an important claim, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” What Jesus means is this: If you want to see what God is like, if you want to see the mind of God, the heart of God, the nature of God, if you want to see God’s whole attitude toward men, look at Me. Paul, later in his letter to the Colossians (Col. 1:15) says, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God.”
The second part of Jesus’ claim is: “My burden is light.” Jesus does not mean that the burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid upon us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light. Although we are not burdened by law, we are burdened by many other things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age and a thousand other things. Jesus’ concern for our burdens is as real as His concern for the law-burdened Jews of His day.
The prophecy of Zechariah about the king riding on a donkey was fulfilled in Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem the week before His Passion and death. Zechariah said, “He shall proclaim peace to the nations.” Yes, Jesus proclaims peace to you; the question is, will you accept His peace? How can you find His peace? Open your hearts to Him. Pray to Him. If you do not spend time with Jesus, how can you find His peace? Spend time with Jesus in prayer every day to find His peace. Come to Jesus here in the Eucharist — Jesus’ greatest gift to the Church. Jesus invites us today to come to Him, to be with Him, and to take rest in Him. Only in Jesus can we genuinely find true and lasting peace.
This Saturday we have the fourth Couples Date Night. We will also have Adoration and a potluck dinner. Couples will experience the joys of praying together before the Blessed Sacrament, and we will conclude with Benediction at 7:00 p.m. I encourage you to take advantage of this great program for families. I have received several encouraging email responses from couples who have been attending this program. I want to especially thank Heidi Chokeir and her team who have been instrumental in coordinating this program for us. Please see the flyer in the Bulletin for more information.