MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT
(A biblical reflection on the 14th Ordinary Sunday [Year A], 5 July 2020)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:25-30
First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalms: Psalm 145:1-2,8-11,13-14, Second Reading: Romans 8:9,11-13
The Scripture Text
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was Thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 RSV)
Those who are regarded as experts in the word of God, the scribes and the Pharisees, often criticize Jesus and His disciples for openly flouting the Law. Jesus heals on the Sabbath and He refuses to check His disciples when they do what is considered work on the Sabbath. He knows that there are many people who regard the 613 commandments of the Law an insufferable burden to bear, and who are treated as religious outcast because they are unable to bear the full yoke imposed by the lawyers.
Remember that in Jesus’ time there are whole groups of people who are dismissed as sinners because they follow what are regarded as dishonorable callings – people who lead life-styles that do not permit them to observe the small print of the Law. Among these groups are shepherds, donkey-drivers, peddlers, tanners, and tax collectors. All these people are deprived of civil rights, forbidden to act as witness in court, and refused entry into the synagogue. They are at the bottom of the social heap. Ignored. But Jesus has a word for them and for all those who are bowed down by an interpretation of the Law that leaves them mugged into senselessness: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus has no intention of doing away with the Law; but He refuses to support the lawyers who spend their time manufacturing new burdens for broken people. Jesus offers all these people an invitation: “Come to Me … learn from Me … and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus make Himself the center of His own teaching. He is the Wisdom of God, and personal fidelity to Him will be the mark of the true disciple. God has chosen Him to be the one who enshrines the fullness of revelation and who embodies the new Law of God.
It is interesting how this problem appears again in the early Church when the first council is called in Jerusalem to decide if new converts have to obey the Law of Moses. It is Peter who settles the matter by arguing against those who insist that Gentile converts must fully obey the Law: “…… why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Peter admits honestly that the disciples of Jesus could not bear the yoke of the Law: why should they demand of others what they have never managed to do themselves? Peter concludes by focusing on the person of Jesus: “But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11).
Peter’s argument “silences the entire assembly” (see Acts 15:12). That is the effect of his honesty on all present. Peter keeps the memory of Jesus at the center of his argument: like Jesus, he utterly refuses to be a part y to imposing laws without taking into account people’s capacity to keep them. Peter keeps the memory green of the disciples’ own inability to live that Law. Now they have a new Law that is found in the person of Jesus Himself. That is why all of Peter’s preaching directs his hearers to the person of Jesus. Jesus did not say: “Come to the Law, and you will find rest for your souls.” He said: “Come to Me … learn from Me … and you will find rest.” And that is what we do in the Eucharist Celebration.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess that without You, I am really nothing. I am grateful, however, that You are always present to help me. And, Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. May the Spirit who dwells in You dwell also in me, and lead me to love and trust the Father as You do. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 July 2020
A Christian Pilgri