Message: No matter how busy we are Jesus wants us to give first priority to time with him.
Last Sunday we saw the huge difference between putting Jesus first and putting him second. Place Jesus first and you gain all; put him second and you lose all. That's why he says "whoever loves father or mother - son or daughter - more than me is not worthy of me."
This Sunday we see something surprising. Once we put Jesus first, he gives us rest: "Take my yoke upon you...and I will give you rest."
How is this possible? By definition a yoke sounds burdensome. Well, it turns out that sometimes farm animals will be unequally yoked. For training purposes a farmer might yoke a bullock with an ox. The ox pulls the entire load while the bullock walks next to him. So it is with us and Jesus. "My yoke," he says, "is easy and my burden light."
I'd like to illustrate this with something from the new rite of matrimony. It has a lovely option. After the couple pronounces their vows and exchanges rings, they can have a cord or lazo placed over their shoulders. It often has the form of a double rosary. The couple kneels and the sponsors place one rosary loop over the bride and the other over the groom. Between them is the cross. The lazo represents how holy matrimony joins them to each other and to Jesus.
Marriage can seem scary - like a heavy burden - but when a couple joins themselves to Jesus, the burden becomes light. Studies have shown that if a couple goes to Mass together - and prays together, even something simple like joining hands for an Our Father or saying grace before meals - if they do that, they have a much higher rate of perseverance in marriage. "Take my yoke upon you," says Jesus. "My yoke is easy and my burden light."
I'd like to now say something about the promise Jesus gives to those who accept his yoke. He says he will not only lift our burden but will give us rest. That's a pretty good promise.
Most of us long for rest. Multiple demands fill our lives. For sure we have labor saving devices. I mean, who would go back to a typewriter or throw out their microwave? In spite of more efficient devices our lives have become complicated in other ways. People seem busier, more stressed out than ever.
I have no solution to the modern dilemma of exaggerated busyness. Jesus does though. He says, "I will give you rest." Of course Jesus and his disciples had times of extreme activity - teaching, healing, driving out demons, organizing, training. Then all of a sudden he would say, "Come apart and rest a while." Jesus engaged in hours of prayer and he tells us to follow his example, "Could you not watch one hour with me?"
I meet monthly with a small group of priests for prayer and review of life. They are all younger than me and I have to admit they work harder than me. They have parishes with schools and a couple of them have major archdiocesan responsibilities. Yet when we meet we hold each other accountable to a daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, rosary, Liturgy of Hours, Scripture reading - and regular exercise. We sometimes fall down but we help each other keep on track.
No matter how busy we are Jesus wants us to give first priority to time with him. Time with Jesus gives real rest and renewal. People seek relief in alcohol, drugs, gambling, hours of TV & Internet, illicit "adventures" - you name your poison. These things may give momentary rest. They then lead to what the French call ennui - that feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety. Only Jesus gives real rest.
We are in a spiritual war, but like every war, it doesn't involve constant battle. As a good general Jesus wants us to have time to rest and retool. Next week we will see that however busy we might be, however stressed out, we have good reason to relax.
Today we are grateful for Jesus' wonderful invitation: "Take my yoke upon you...and you will find rest...my yoke is easy and my burden light." Amen.
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