Thursday July 19, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 3:13-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:28-30)
We hear Our Lord's words in the Gospel that we are to come to Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It is words like this that give us great hope. Then we see, in the first reading from Exodus, how God worked with Moses and how He works with His people: He allows them to be enslaved and now they are reduced to bitter slavery. We say, "How is that an easy yoke and a light burden?"
What God will do, remember, is always what is the very best. He will do things in the way that is the very best. When one does something out of love, it makes it easy. Even though it is very difficult, it is love that lightens the load. God always acts in love for His people, never out of any other motive, always in love.
At the same time, we can look at this from another perspective and see what God is telling Moses. He says, "The very proof that it is I who am speaking to you is that, when you come out of Egypt, you will worship God on this very mountain." In other words, there will not be a proof until after the fact. What you see, when you are dealing with God, is that everything is paid beforehand. There is no such thing as "collect on delivery." Everything is prepaid with God. The suffering and the struggle come beforehand - the reward comes at the end.
This is the way He wants to work with each one of us, as well. He asks simply that we would take up the yoke. Now, even though He says that His yoke is easy, you have to understand that in the Old Testament God had forbidden that you would yoke animals that were not similar. You could not use the yoke that was made for a donkey and put it onto an ox. It was forbidden because it would not fit right. He did not say that you could not use a yoke, He just said that you cannot use the wrong one.
So, for each one of us the yoke is perfectly fitted. He will not yoke us unevenly with somebody else. In other words, He is not going to put a yoke onto us that is fit for someone else. But when you put the yoke on the oxen, it still means that they have to pull the plow. The yoke fits easily and it is light, but it does not mean it is going to be a piece of cake. That is what each one of us needs to remember, as well. If we are going to take up the yoke of Christ, it is going to fit perfectly. It is not going to seem very heavy until we start to pull. And the plow is not going to pull easily, but the yoke will fit right. That is what the Lord is telling us. We cannot simply take these words and say, "Oh! If I follow Jesus there is not going to be anymore suffering because He said this is going to be easy." No, He did not. All He said is that the yoke, which is going to fit over our shoulders and sit on our neck, is going to fit properly. It is going to fit snug and perfect for each one of us. When He tells us to take up the yoke, it is basically the exact same thing as when He said, "Take up your cross." It will fit perfectly.
None of us is going to be able to escape that. It is going to be different for each one of us. Each one of us has a different personality, each one of us has a different threshold for what we can handle; God, therefore, will make it specific for each one. All we need to do is trust and allow that yoke to be placed upon our shoulders and begin to work with it. It is only when we do the work and the field is completely plowed that we will be able to receive the reward for our labor. The labor has to come first.
That is the point we need to understand in the Gospel today. The Lord wants us to take up His yoke. He wants us to do the work. He is inviting us and, in fact, really commanding us to do it. It is not an option if we are going to follow Him. But do not be fooled as to what it means. All that it means is that it will fit perfectly to make you a saint. It does not mean there will not be any struggle or suffering; it just means, whatever the yoke is, it will be individually, specifically, and perfectly fitted for your neck and shoulders to make you a saint.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.