"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mt 11:28 -30)
This was in the Gospel for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost which was last Sunday. I reflected on this in the Sermon, but I want to reflect on this more here. In fact, for all of my life part of this passage has been a part of our liturgy in a much older translation "Come
unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I
will refresh you." This passage can be found in our Rite I Eucharist in the "comfortable words" following the confession and absolution. Since Rite I is in fact mostly the Eucharist from the 1928 Prayer Book, this has been a part of my life as long as I have been alive.
What does it mean to us? Jesus speaks in many different tones in the Gospels and this is more the tone of the Jesus Meek and Mild I learned of in Sunday School. However, I left that Jesus behind me many years ago along with my naivete. I have come to think of Jesus as a strong, forceful and directed person who teaches a God of Love and forgiveness. This passage almost seems too kind and meek. Is it though?
Jesus was facing a rough time. He was being opposed by the very people in Judea who he was closest to in message, the Pharisees. The Pharisees are the very strain of Judaic religion that eventually became Rabinic Judaism and has lead to modern Judaism. An if you are familiar at all with today's Judaism you know that is is very moral, charitable and demonstrative of the Love of God. So, what was the problem? It was for Jesus a problem that the Pharisees of his day were layering things on the Torah Law enough to make compliance very difficult, for some even impossible. In our passage from Matthew we hear Jesus saying that his yoke is light and it is light because he does not layer impossible demands on the people.
This is something for us to keep in mind today. The faith of the Church is much simpler by far than some would make it. "Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like
the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it." This is a quote from the Gospel of Mary Magdalen, a non-canonical work. It is a quote of the post- resurrection Jesus to his Disciples and it indicates the very principle I refer to. Don't add a lot of extra things to the "way of Christ." Let's keep the burden light!