Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 100

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves. 
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

More often than not, when I anoint a Catholic Veteran with the Sacrament of the Sick, I recite the gospel passage above. I can narrate other passages but this one I recite verbatim. It speaks volumes to the sick.

There are two yokes in the passage, the explicit one that Jesus offers and the implicit one we carry, the yoke of our own making. That one is very heavy.

Because each of us fashion's his own yoke, each one is different. Some are made of guilt and shame. We carry terrible regrets about things we have done, or seen, or suffered. These incidents should not have happened and we feel eternally responsible for them.

Others consist of expectation about the way things should be. Some patients think they should feel no pain or discomfort. They might even cite certain misguided authorities who decreed they have a right to feel no pain. The pain is severe enough; and it's complicated by the anger, suspicion and resentment that accompanies false beliefs about medical care.

The fear that says the pain might get worse may also be paralyzing. Sometimes all it takes to feel less pain is to inhale, exhale, relax and let it pass. Too, it helps to keep one's eyes open. Holding one's breath and scrunching the eyelids holds it in.

Human life is fraught with many disappointments and some of them hurt a lot. Jesus knew that; it was a burden he readily carried. He knew pleasure, delight and laughter. He knew the joy of companionship and the solace of solitude. And he also knew sorrow. He felt sadness and hurt but was not disappointed when they fell upon him. Rather, he claimed them for himself.

Jesus invites us to "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." We don't get to choose the crosses we bear. We might select a few of the lighter ones, for practice. We can fast, exercise, study and work with a generous spirit; these elected crosses are good for the soul. But life, or the Lord, will appoint the major crosses; the losses, disappointments, chronic illnesses and heartbreaks.

They're easier to bear when we recognize them as gifts from our Beloved Lord.

Occasionally a patient will tell me his illness has been a blessing for him. The presence of a chaplain may afford him the time and opportunity to notice it. That's usually not his first word to me; he may have to review the onset of the illness and the story of his life. Days might pass before the silver lining appears around that cloud.

We Catholics bring to our Christian tradition this practical awareness of disguised blessings. We walk the Stations of the Cross and ponder the Sorrowful Mysteries. We choose to fast during Lent and Advent, remembering Jesus' forty days in the desert. We sacrifice time, talent and treasure for the sake of our religion. We don't expect life to be continually rewarding or satisfying. We defer gratification with the confidence that there will be plenty of time to finish the bucket list in eternity.

Given the right attitude, we discover that his yoke is easy, and his burden light.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.