14th Sunday A. July 3rd
Easy and Light
At that time, Jesus exclaimed, "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.
Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light."
There is a song from the 1960’s and 70’s that you may have heard.
It is about a boy who is walking along the road, carrying another boy on his back. This is the first verse:
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where.
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
The song was inspired by a village in Nebraska called Boys Town. Edward Flanagan, a priest from Roscommon, set up the village to look after troubled or homeless boys. In 1941 he came across a drawing of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, with a caption underneath that said, ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.’ Fr. Flanagan made these words the motto of Boys Town. The song continues,
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
There are two kinds of things we do in our day-to-day living: things that are hard labour and a heavy burden, and things that are easy and light. The things we have to do but do not want to do, are burdensome. The same is true of the responsibilities we have that do not want to carry. We may carry burdens which others impose on us. Or ones we impose on ourselves out of a sense of duty or sense of guilt. We can wear ourselves out trying to justify ourselves in the eyes of others, or in our own eyes, or in the eyes of God. Unlike the song, we may feel that the one we carry on your back is way too heavy, and the road is too long; we may feel it is unfair that the burden is left to us, that others should be helping. Such things as these can make us very angry.
Doing what we love to do
Other things are easy and light: these are the things we love to do and freely choose. My father grew up on a small farm. He went to America and earned enough to buy a farm of his own when he returned. For a lifetime, he worked hard on the land and he worked long hours. But he loved farming. For him, for most of the time, it was easy and light. When he sat down to rest at night he was satisfied.
I worked as a chaplain in a hospice in Cork. I was constantly impressed by people who would come day after day, some times for weeks on end, to be with a family member who was terminally ill. This made big demands on them, but they did it, not just out of duty but because they cared about the person who was dying.
In every church in which I have served I have known good people who went to Mass every day, and who did so, not out of a sense of guilt or of duty, but because they wanted to worship God. For them it was not a chore, but something that was easy and light, something they did out of love.
You will find rest
When Jesus saw people all around him whose life was hard and who were heavy burdened, he invited them to come to him. He promised that he would take the weight off their shoulders. What he would ask them to take on their shoulders was something easy and light. It might be demanding but it would still be easy and light, because they would know it was the right thing for them to do, and love would inspire them to do it.
I think the Lord is always at work in our lives freeing us from the heavy burdens that other people impose on us and from the burdens we impose on ourselves; freeing us from unreasonable demands and from cruel and unjust treatment. He is freeing us so that we can choose to take up his yoke of love and spend our energy in loving God, our neighbour and ourselves, in ways that we find are easy and light.
A Prayer at the end of the day
Lord Jesus Christ,
meek and humble of heart,
you offer to those who follow you
a yoke that is good to bear,
a burden that is light.
Accept, we beg you, our prayer and work of this day
and grant us the rest we need
that we may be ever more willing to serve you