Perhaps the great bane of the Northeast of the United States is the speed with which we attempt to accomplish everything. When you travel to other parts of the country and throughout the world they manage, somehow, to do almost everything at a much slower pace. Yes, I know, this drives us crazy. Those who travel here to visit us find the pace frenzied. We aren’t good at relaxing, and when we do relax, it tends to be a speed respite. Of course, our cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices are always close at hand.
These days, with the political tension in our country, with disruption throughout the world, and the constant cacophony of those who offer dire predictions about the near and distant future, a sense of unease and angst can easily overpower our thoughts and words.
We act like all the cares of the world rest on our shoulders. We as individuals, as a nation, or as humanity itself, are singularly responsible for the governance and care of the planet and of the universe. It stands in contrast to the Gospel and to our understanding of creation as the work of God.
Our Gospel passage this week reminds us that Jesus calls us to rest in him … "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."
The Lord calls us to abandon that sense of our own self-importance and to place everything on him. When we genuinely respond to God’s call, when we seek in and through him that sense of healing, mercy and consolation, we will find it. He does not abandon us in our weakness, nor does he demand that we rely on our own strength to accomplish the work that he has set before us.
It can take us a very long time to learn that our yoke, the burdens that we place upon ourselves, are much heavier when we attempt to carry them on our own. Yes, it is important to rely on the kindness and generosity of family, friends, strangers, and yes, the Christian community to assist us in meeting certain immediate and tangible needs, but it is not ultimately sustainable without the reliance on the life of faith and the gifts that the Lord desires to offer us.
The Lord challenges us to abandon our sense of self. That is the most difficult step of all. The very notion that instead of working towards success and fame, we must “take up our cross” is a great contradiction to the values of the world.
As consoling as this Gospel passage sounds, it stands for many of us a powerful challenge, and one that seems to offer little by way of hope or comfort. This is the foundation of faith; this is the very starting point from which every act of faith begins. Yes, we might be able to have a relationship with Jesus and think of ourselves as good Catholics or good Christians without starting here, but we eventually have to get back to this fundamental truth before we can have the kind of experience of faith that we believe we have without taking up our cross, placing our burdens on the Lord, and accepting the yoke he wants to share with us.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]