Thursday July 17, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 3:13-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:28-30)
In the first reading today from the Book of Exodus, as God speaks to Moses to tell him how things are going to operate, He tells Moses, “Just simply go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of my fathers has sent me to you.’ Tell them My Name, they will believe you, and I will lead you out of Egypt. Now about Pharaoh, I know he’s not going to let you go, but I’m going to work some wondrous deeds and then he’ll send you away.” Well, hearing that on the surface, most of us, if we were in Moses’ position, would hightail it right back into Egypt, kind of rub our hands together, and wait to see what God was going to do to Pharaoh. Of course, we know how Pharaoh handled things, what he did to the Hebrews in just making their slavery even worse. God did work great wonders and signs in Egypt, and Pharaoh did send the people away – but not until he had made things more difficult. God did not tell that part to Moses because the people probably would not have accepted it if they would have known beforehand. They were no different than we are.
Then we hear Our Lord in the Gospel telling us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. If you take My yoke upon yourself, you will find rest for yourselves.” All of this is true, however, to take the Lord’s yoke upon ourselves and to learn from Him, if we look at the life of any saint, just ask yourself, “How easy was it? How simple was it for them?” It was not. But the freedom that the Lord is offering to us is very simple, actually. The Lord only gave us one commandment, so that is what His yoke is – His yoke is love. He is simply asking us to love. Good luck.
This is something, of course, which we know we were created for. It is true freedom for our souls and it is not something that comes easily to any of us. It means that we have to die to ourselves. It means that we literally have to do violence to ourselves to put our own desires, our own will, our own wants, our own likes aside to do what is truly the best for somebody else. It means to have the kind of compassion that Our Lord has. It means to forgive. It means to let go. These are not things that come easily to any of us. Sin has hurt us so badly that we are very selfish. What God is asking is exactly the opposite, and it does not come easily to us to do anything which is selfless.
Now for anyone who has tried to love, what you will find as you love is that there is true freedom, that there is a joy you have never known before. I am not talking about the infatuated kind of love that one can fall into when they think they are in love, because that is not really love at all. But I am talking about when you are truly loving another person. There is joy you have never known before. There is freedom you have never known before. The problem, of course, is that is only with one person. God is asking us to love everybody, even our enemies and those who persecute us. And so if we take that joy and freedom that comes in loving that one person and then we start extending that out, we begin to see how the Lord is truly speaking to us in a way that is the absolute truth. We will find freedom for ourselves. We will find rest. He yoke is light and His burden is easy.
But I do not suppose I have to explain this any further to anyone who is married. You love that one person, but that does not mean it is always fun and easy. For couples who have been together for many years and you have learned how to perfect that love, you have probably found that freedom, you have probably found that joy and that ease. Maybe, anyway. So we realize it is not a simple thing. He has spoken the absolute truth. If we are willing to take His yoke upon us – which is His Cross – we will find freedom for our souls, we will find rest for our souls. His yoke is truly easy and His burden is light, that is, if one truly loves. There is no weight. It is simple. It is easy. It is joyful. We will find rest for our souls, but to do it is very difficult for us.
That is what Our Lord is asking of us. We see the pattern of how it works. He tells us the truth, but He does not tell us the cost always because we probably would not do it if we knew what the cost was. And so He gives us the good part without telling us how we are going to have to get there. He has told us that in other places, so it is not like He hid it from us completely. But we just simply need to understand what it is that He is asking. He is asking us to love. He has commanded us to love as we have been loved by Him. That is His yoke. That is the burden. It is the very purpose of our creation, which is why we will find rest for our souls, why we will find this freedom for ourselves. Then, and only then, will we be acting the way we were created to act. We will be who we were created to be when that actually happens. But getting there is our trouble. And so what the Lord is offering to us is a share in His own life, but in His own Cross, in His own love. This is not something we can do by ourselves; we all know that. Only by going to Him and allowing Him to love in us and through us can we do this. But that is what He will do for us if we are willing to take His yoke upon ourselves and to learn from Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.