Stop Yoking Around: A Homily for the 14th Sunday of the Year

070514We who live the West live in a time and place where almost every burden of manual labor has been eliminated. Not only that, but creature comforts abound in almost endless number and variety. Everything from air conditioning to hair conditioning, from fast food to 4G internet, from indoor plumbing to outdoor grilling, from instant computer downloads to instant coffee machines. You don’t even have to write a letter anymore; just press send and it’s there. Yet despite all this, it would seem we modern Westerners still keenly experience life’s burdens, for recourse to psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs is widespread.

It is increasingly clear that serenity is an inside job. Merely improving the outside and amassing creature comforts is not enough. A large fluffy pillow may cushion the body (until we get bored with it), but apparently not the soul.

Today, Jesus wants to work on the inside just a bit and presents us a teaching on being increasingly freed of our burdens. He doesn’t promise a trouble-free life, but if we will let Him go to work, we can grow in freedom and serenity. Jesus gives a threefold teaching on how we can experience greater serenity and freedom from our burdens. We do this by filiation, imitation, and simplification.

I. Filiation – The Gospel today opens with these words: At that time Jesus exclaimed:  “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Note how Jesus contrasts the “wise and learned” with the “little ones.” And in so doing Jesus commends to us a childlike simplicity before our heavenly Father, our Abba, our “Daddy-God.” This is the experience of divine filiation, of being a child of God, of being one of God’s “little ones.” The wise, learned, and clever often miss what God is trying to do and say, and because of this, they are anxious and feel stressed.

It is possible for a person to study a great deal, but if he doesn’t pray (if he doesn’t go before God like a little child), he isn’t going to get very far. The Greek word translated here as “revealed” is  ἀπεκάλυψας (apekalupsas) which more literally means “to unveil.” And only God can take away the veil, and He only does so for the humble and simple. Thus Jesus commends to our understanding the need for childlike simplicity and prayerful humility.

Half of our problems in life and 80% of the cause of our burdensome stress is that we think too much and pray too little. We have big brains and small hearts; and so we struggle to understand God instead of trusting him. Though our reason is our crowning glory, we must never forget how to be a little child in the presence of God our Father. No matter how much we think we know, it really isn’t very much. Jesus’ first teaching is filiation, embracing a childlike simplicity before our Daddy-God.

What does it mean to be childlike? Consider how humble little children are. They are always asking why and are unashamed to admit that they do not know. Children are also filled with wonder and awe; they are fascinated by the littlest as well as the biggest things. Children know they depend on their parents and instinctively run to them at any sign of trouble, or when they have been hurt. They trust their parents. Not only that, but they ask for everything; they are always seeking, asking, and knocking.

And thus Jesus teaches us that the first step to lessening our burdens is to have a childlike simplicity with the Father wherein we are humble before Him, acknowledge our need for Him, and recognize our dependence on Him for everything. He teaches us to have a simplicity that is humble enough to admit we don’t know much and want to learn from Him, a wonder and awe in all that God has done, and an instinct to run to God in every danger, or when we are hurt and in trouble.  Above all, Jesus teaches us by this image to grow each day in our trust of Abba, and to have the confidence to ask Him for everything we need. The Book of James says, You have not because you ask not (4:2). An old spiritual says, I love the Lord; he heard my cry; and pitied every groan. Long as I live and troubles rise; I’ll hasten to his throne.

Yes, run! Run with childlike simplicity and trust.

So here is the first teaching of Jesus on letting go of our burdens: grow in childlike simplicity and trust before God our loving Father and Abba.

II. Imitation – The text says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest … for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. Jesus commends to us two characteristics of Himself that, if we embrace them, will give us rest and relief from our burdens. He says He is meek and humble of heart. Let’s look at both.

What does it mean to be meek? The Greek word is πραΰς (praus) and there is some debate as to how it is best interpreted. Simply looking at it as a Greek word, we can see that Aristotle defined “praotes” (meekness) as the mean, or middle ground, between too much anger and not enough anger. Hence the meek are those who have authority over their anger.

However, many biblical scholars think that Jesus uses this word most often as a synonym for being “poor in spirit.” And what does it mean to be poor in spirit? It means to be humble and dependent on God. By extension it means that our treasure is not here. We are poor to this world, and our treasure is with God and the things awaiting us in heaven. And here is a source of serenity for us, for when we become poor to this world, when we become less obsessed with success, power, and possessions, many of our anxieties go away. To the poor in spirit, the wealth of this world is as nothing. You can’t steal from a man who has nothing. A poor man is less anxious because he has less to lose and less at stake. He is free from this world’s obsessions and from the fears and burdens they generate. And so Jesus calls us to accept His example and the growing experience in us of being poor in spirit.

Jesus also says that He is humble of heart. The Greek word here is ταπεινός (tapeinos) meaning lowly or humble and referring to one who depends on the Lord rather than himself. We have already discussed this at length above. But simply note here that the Lord Jesus is inviting us to learn this from Him and to receive it as a gift. The Lord can do this for us. And if we will learn it from Him and receive it, so many of our burdens and anxieties will be lifted.

Here then is the second teaching, which Jesus offers us so that we will see life’s burdens lessened. He teaches us to learn from Him and receive from Him the gift to be poor in spirit and humble of heart. The serenity that comes from embracing these grows with each day, for this world no longer has its shackles on us. It cannot intimidate us, for its wealth and power do not entice us, and we do not fear their loss. We learn to trust that God will see us through and provide us with what we need.

III. Simplification – The text says, Take my yoke upon you … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. The most important word in this sentence is “my.” Jesus says, MY yoke is easy, MY burden is light.

What is a yoke? Essentially “yoke” is used here as a euphemism for the cross. A yoke is a wooden truss that makes it easier to carry a heavy load by distributing the weight along a wider part of the body or by causing the weight to be shared by two or more people or animals. In the picture at left, the woman is able to carry the heavy water more easily with the weight across her shoulders rather than in the narrow section of her hands. This eases the load by involving the whole body more evenly. Yokes are also used to join two animals and help them work together in pulling a load.

What is Jesus saying? First, He is saying that He has a yoke for us. That is, He has a cross for us. Notice that  Jesus is NOT saying that there is no yoke or cross or burden in following Him. There is a cross that He allows, for a reason and for a season.

Easy? But Jesus says the cross HE has for us is “easy.” Now the Greek word χρηστὸς (chrestos) is better translated “well fitting,” “suitable,” or even “useful.” In effect, the Lord is saying that the yoke He has for us is suited to us, is well fitting, and has been carefully chosen so as to be useful for us. God knows we need some crosses in order to grow. He knows what those crosses are, what we can bear, and what we are ready for. Yes, His yoke for us is well fitting.

But note again that little word, “my.” The cross or yoke Jesus has for us is well suited and useful for us. The problem comes when we start adding to that weight with things of our own doing. We put wood upon our own shoulders that God never put there and never intended for us. We make decisions without asking God. We undertake projects, launch careers, accept promotions, even enter marriages without ever discerning if God wants this for us. And sure enough, before long our life is complicated and burdensome and we feel pulled in eight directions. But this is not the “my yoke” of Jesus; this is largely the yoke of our own making. Of course it is not easy or well fitting; Jesus didn’t make it.

Don’t blame God; simplify. Be very careful before accepting commitments and making big decisions. Ask God. It may be good, but not for you. It may help others, but destroy you. Seek the Lord’s will. If necessary, seek advice from a spiritually mature person. Consider your state in life; consider the tradeoffs. Balance the call to be generous with the call to proper stewardship of your time, talent, and treasure. Have proper priorities. It is amazing how many people put their career before their vocation. They take promotions, accept special assignments, and think more of money and advancement than their spouse and children. Sure enough, the burdens increase and the load gets heavy when we don’t ask God or even consider how a proposed course of action might affect the most precious and important things in our lives.

Stop “yoking around.” Jesus’ final advice, then, is “Take MY yoke … only my yoke. Forsake all others. Simplify.” So stop yoking around. Take only His yoke. If you do, your burdens will be lighter.  Jesus says, “Come and learn from me. I will not put heavy burdens on you. I will set your heart on fire with love. And then, whatever I do have for you, will be a pleasure for you to do. Because, what makes the difference is love.” Love lightens every load.

Image Credits:
Above right From Used with Permission.
Picture of Yoke from Seneca Creek Joinery

This video says we do need a yoke; God is preparing us to cross over to glory.

This song says, “When troubles rise, I’ll hasten to his throne.”

10 Replies to “Stop Yoking Around: A Homily for the 14th Sunday of the Year”

  1. Praised be Jesus!

    Thank you, Monsignor Pope.

    If Jesus were to invite you to enter His mansion? Would you enter into it?

    I had a similar dream, but in it, I felt unworthy, cast down, and shook my head.
    Was that being humble? Or disobedient?

    1. The devil cares not how you fail, so long as you do. Remember that. If you fill yourself with conceit, you will fail; likewise, if you fill yourself with self-loathing, you will also fail.

      Feel unworthy, for indeed you are. Do not, however, be tricked into being downcast, for that is of the devil! Be bold and step forward, ask for a bath and new clothes (the Sacraments), and join the feast.

    2. Don’t beat yourself up, you will not be judged for a dream and no one can project anything onto you. None are worthy and none can condemn. But dreams, like everything, can teach us if we offer them to our Father through Jesus and ask His Will, allowing the Spirit to pray within and patiently awaiting the answers. Excellent advice on this page, particularly the Sacraments but also seeking the powerful intercession our Mother, Blessed Mary ever Virgin. God bless.

      1. Thank you, Recusant and Jas, for very dear advice and stirring words of faith.

  2. Is self deprecation humility? Or is it false humility? I often do this for I know my weaknesses and shortcomings specially my lack of service to the LORD and the Church and fellow men. Am I offending GOD by denigrating myself for not acknowledging HIS gifts freely given to me? Of course, I boast of GOD’s Mercy on me and my family. That and that alone makes me go through life’s iniquities, for only when I learned and accepted GOD’s Mercy, it was the beginning of knowing that I am no one, not even a dust in the greatness of the universe of which HE created and living life on borrowed time only by HIS Grace and Kindness. Thank YOU, LORD that YOU have found me in my forty years of wanderings. Solo DIOS basta.

    1. ” …nothing is wanting to those who possess God.
      God alone suffices. “

  3. +EdraCRUZ’s thoughtful words above are truly worth meditating upon . . .

    Re dreams . . . they can be very mysterious . . . and in relation to even hazarding a guess as to the meaning of the mentioned dream – in spiritual matters St. John the Apostle cautions us: “Dearly beloved, believe NOT every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of GOD: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. –John 4:1

    However, in relation to . . . responding . . . to what seems to be a . . . genuine . . . contact with GOD . . . be it GOD the Father . . . GOD the Son . . . (Jesus . . . the Blessed Christ . . . our Redeemer and LORD) . . . or . . . GOD the Holy Spirit . . . we have a . . . truly wonderful! . . . Holy Heavenly Mother . . . as our teacher and guide as GOD’s beloved children . . .the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . (Jesus very Own Mother) . . . and through her profound . . . holy example . . . and . . . holy words . . . we are taught very simply and clearly how to . . . RESPOND . . . to GOD . . . if truly it is He Who is coming to us with a request . . .

    “And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the LORD;


    And the angel departed from her.” –Luke 1:38 drv

    Another . . . wonderful! . . . companion available response to Mary’s to our LORD comes through the blessed St. Faustina . . . who . . . in response to Divine Inspiration . . . obediently placed as the signature at the bottom of the heavenly commissioned . . . “Divine Mercy” . . . beautiful painting of Christ . . .


    The Hail Mary

    “Hail Mary, full of grace, the LORD is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, JESUS. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

    . . . all for Jesus+

  4. Thanks! . . . All for JESUS+. GOD Bless you and your family. GOD Bless our holy priests especially Monsi Pope and our parish priests, all priests, bishops and our Pope Francis.

  5. If the journey is authentic, we should know we belong to God long before we depart for the next life, and we will journey confidently.

  6. +So far this week . . . off and on as moments of spare time have presented themselves . . . my mind has been mulling over the thoughtful question posed by Monsignor Pope in his above sharing of . . . “What does it mean to be meek?” . . .

    I’ve long been fascinated by Moses . . . GOD’s chosen and anointed Mighty Deliverer and Holy Lawgiver . . . and the profound truth Sacred Scripture shares with us . . . that our dear elder brother Moses was the . . . “MEEKEST” . . . of men . . .

    “(For Moses was a man exceeding MEEK above ALL men that dwelt upon earth.)” –Numbers 12:3 drv

    Some considerable years ago I heard a definition of “meek” that has stuck with me . . . which described meekness very simply as . . .“GENTLED POWER” . . . Inherent in this definition . . . is an inferred . . . yet clear . . . quite sublime element . . . of. . .” HEAVENLY CONTROL” . . . quite beyond simple “mortal” control . . .

    “For thy POWER, O Lord, is NOT in a multitude, NOR is thy pleasure in the strength of horses, NOR from the beginning have the proud been acceptable to thee: but the prayer of the humble and the MEEK hath always pleased thee.” –Judith 9:16 drv

    Re Aristotle’s slant on “meekness” . . . he seems to touch on what certainly is a “powerful” emotion . . . “anger” . . .and if one were to displace the word “anger” in his definition . . . and insert the word . . . “power” . . . might not that middle ground he seems to be reaching for. . . (but which he just doesn’t quite seem to apprehend in light of Scriptural Truth re use of the term) . . . actually be . . . “GENTLED POWER” . . . ? . . .

    Certainly Moses was INCREDIBLY powerful . . . by the Grace of . . . ALMIGHTY GOD . . . he parted the Red Sea for Heavens Sake . . . ! . . . among many, many other INCREDIBLE things . . . yet the Sweet Spirit of our Holy GOD counsels us in Sacred Scripture that he was considered . . . “exceeding MEEK ABOVE all men” . . . and then there’s our Saviour and LORD . . . JESUS . . . who was and is and always will be the. . . ALL POWERFUL . . . GOD the Son . . . and yet he describes himself in Monsignor’s chosen passage of Scripture:

    “Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I AM MEEK, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. — Matthew 11:29 drv . . . And then yet again JESUS refers to himself in the following passage: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold thy king cometh to thee, MEEK, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of her that is used to the yoke.” –Matthew 21:5 drv

    I can’t quite wrap my mind around this being synonymous with the Biblical scholars . . . “poor in spirit” . . .definition . . . since JESUS . . . who is GOD as well as man . . . just doesn’t seem to fit in that mold . . . so for my soul at least . . . the term “meek” is still . . . rather mysterious . . . and I still seem to be in the “learning” mode re “meekness” . . .

    . . . all for Jesus+

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