Sunday Sermon for July 5, 2020, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Zech 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30

In the Gospel reading our Lord invites those who labor and are burdened to come to Him for rest.  Given this statement, what follows seems to make no sense.  Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him because He is meek and humble of heart.  If we are burdened, how is it that taking His yoke upon us will give us rest?  Beyond that, what difference does it make that He is meek and humble of heart?  Does it really make us feel better that His yoke is easy and His burden light?

First, our Lord tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him.  The yoke of Jesus is love.  This is why the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  Love makes everything easy.  If we have a task to fulfill, we can do it purely out of a motive to get the task completed.  Unless it is something we enjoy, such a task can be a burden we complain about because we do not want to do perform the task.  Rather, we feel obligated to perform the task.

When something is done out of love, the burden is lifted.  Some tasks we can do just because we need to do them, but these will often feel like a burden, especially if we did not really want to do the task in the first place.  However, when something is done out of love, the burden is removed.  It may still be difficult and even painful, but when the motive is love it becomes easy.  Since our Lord gave us one commandment, the lesson we need to learn from Him is love.

Meekness and humility of heart are actually very important in this context.  Remember that humility and charity are inseparably linked to one another: the height of our charity is equal to the depth of our humility.  The humility of heart of which our Lord speaks is precisely what made the task of carrying His Cross easy.  First, He did not think that carrying a cross was beneath His dignity.  Sometimes we might think we are too good for this or that task.  Really?  Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and underwent His Passion and death.  He is God!  Is there really anything that is beneath us?  Not if it is carried out in love.

Meekness is the virtue opposite of anger.  Many people mistake meekness for weakness.  In fact, meekness requires great strength.  It is much easier to lose our patience than it is to be patient when things are not going our way.  The Saints tell us that patience is the proof of humility.  We can know we are humble when we have achieved patience.  This is because the patient person does not think their own importance is being violated when their plans do not work out as they intended. 

When we are humble, we will see ourselves as little or nothing, no matter how important we may be in the eyes of the world.  We will see others as better and more important than ourselves.  Hence, no matter what happens, it is not seen as an injustice, an irritation, or a difficulty; the humble person is the servant of others and puts his own wants last. 

God calls all of us to humility so we can be great in charity.  In the first reading we hear about the Savior, meek and just, banishing the chariot, the horse, and the warrior’s bow.  In the ancient world, horses and chariots were signs of power or, if you will, pride.  The people of Israel were forbidden to have horses; they were to ride only donkeys.  Having a chariot hooked up to a donkey would be ridiculous.  So, the people were to be humble and obedient; two things that do not come naturally to us as human persons.

If they do not come naturally, then we need to pray to obtain them supernaturally.  This is what St. Paul is talking about when He speaks of those who belong to Christ having the Spirit of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the One Who can bring us humility and charity.  He is, after all, the Spirit of love.  Since we cannot have charity without humility, He must also be a Spirit of humility.  Since patience is the proof of humility, He must also be a Spirit of meekness.  Since meekness brings peace, He is also a Spirit of peace.

If we live according to the flesh, using St. Paul’s terms, we will be filled with pride, anger, selfishness, etc.  If we live by the Spirit, we will be filled with humility, charity, meekness, peace, etc.  The Spirit of Christ is love; the yoke of Christ is love: it brings peace to our souls.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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