Thursday, July 14, 2016

I am a grown man, I'll eat what I want to eat!

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.
- Jesus

In my teens I attended an evangelical church that taught that these words meant that we were free to do anything and everything we wanted.   So I did.   If it felt good I did it, if it tasted good I ate it, if I wanted it? I took it.  That's freedom right? After all, freedom means being able to do whatever you want when you want, right?
 I want to defend myself and say "I wasn't a horrible person."   Yet, when I look back on some of the things I did I am not sure I can make that claim and be honest with myself.
True freedom is not being a slave to our passions and desires.   It means being able to say yes or no, regardless of what our minds or bodies tell us to do.  A person who is truly free can be chaste and avoid doing those things which his body desires.   They can avoid being a glutton, no more cake for me please, I've had enough.   They can walk into the flames of a fire to save another soul even though the pain of the burns they receive scream at them to run the other way.   That's true freedom, being disciplined enough and free enough to decide for yourself, regardless of what peer pressure, hormones, and all those other influences call for you to do.

The thing about a yoke that I did not realize as a teen is it is only easy when you go where it is leading you.  When we read that verse from Isaiah we see the path of the just is smooth and and level.  The just.  That is a person who lives out the justice of God, not a person who simply does what they wish.  When we go along with God's will, when we seek out that which is good and noble, that's when the yoke is easy and the burden is light.   That doesn't mean a bed of roses.   Today is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.  This young woman walked with the yoke of Christ on her shoulders.  In reward for it her people starved her, threw rocks at her as she went to church, and eventually she had to flee to a different area to live in peace.  In all of it, she went where Christ asked her to go.

The reason the yoke is so easy though is it's something we are innately wired to do.  Yes, there are those out there who have been broken by society, their parents, or traumatic experiences.  All of those are created in the image of God, we were born to live out the simple truth of God's justice: love.  When Moses spoke to the people earlier this week he said that the message we have received is not something lofty in the skies that we must beg a bird to go get it, nor is it something distant and hidden that we must send someone on a quest to find it, rather it is already on our tongues and written in our hearts.   We already know what is right to do, but we choose to do what is easy, what is comfortable.  Are you listening to God when he speaks to you?  Are you following the yoke when it pulls to the left or the right?  Or trying to forge your own path?

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the daily Mass readings for Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, July 14, 2016. Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; Psalm 102; The Holy Gospel According to Saint Matthew 11:28-30