How Is a Burden Light?

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July 8, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

July 8, 2017
Matthew 11:25-30
Fr. George Smiga

In today’s gospel, Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Aren’t these contradictions in terms? If a burden is light, how can it be a burden? An easy yoke makes about as much sense as a delightful disaster or a healthy poison. Jesus’ sayings today at first seem confusing. But if we take some time to reflect upon them, it becomes clear that Jesus has named something that we all know is true from our own experience.

A yoke is something that ties us, binds us to something else. And we all know that when we commit ourselves to someone or something of value, the result will be a mixture of what is easy and what is difficult, a combination of both joy and pain. Parents know this to be true. There are few greater joys in life than the joy of knowing and loving a son or daughter. Yet that relationship can cause tremendous pain, if we have to see a child suffer or if our relationship to our child begins to deteriorate. Spouses see the meaning of Jesus’ words. It is a blessing it is to find another person with whom we can share life intellectually, spiritually, sexually. Yet at the same time, what a challenge it is to have patience and forgiveness when our spouse is thoughtless or begins to grow in a new direction. Jesus’ words certainly ring true to anyone who has ever tried to accomplish some significant good thing or to bring more justice into our world. Such an effort is filled with the frustrations of ignorance, bureaucracy, and indifference. But at the same time, there are moments of bliss when even one step is taken in the right direction or even a few people begin to understand.

Human life on anything more than a surface level is always a mixture of the easy and the difficult, a burden that is also light. So what does Jesus have to say about this mixed reality of life that we all live? Jesus invites us to place our light burden into a relationship with our heavenly Father. In today’s gospel Jesus prays to his father, and there are two aspects to his prayer: thanksgiving and learning. Jesus gives thanks to his father for revealing what is true, for allowing us to learn what has true value. We are called to follow Jesus’ example in prayer: to be thankful for all the joys and blessings that are in our life and to learn from the mistakes and pain that we must endure. Because we are people of faith, we believe that all the good things in our lives are gifts from God and a sign of God’s love for us. For these we should give thanks. Because we are believers, we also trust that that same good God can draw out of our pain and suffering something to learn, a truth that can make us stronger and give us the courage to carry the burdens we must bear.

Human life is not completely easy or completely difficult. It is both. It is the light burden, the easy yoke that we must take up. That is why as people of faith, we should always and constantly give thanks for the people, for the talents, for the opportunities with which God has blessed us. At the same time we should dare to believe that God will lead us to learn from our suffering and our pain, so that in time we will have even more reason to give thanks to the God who loves us.

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