We are free to choose…team up with God or become a slave to the world
When we are suffering, it’s sometimes not easy to see much value in the First Reading. So what if God comes humbly into the world? Where was God when my friend died? Where was God when my project collapsed and I lost all my efforts and savings?
And, as Jesus invites us in the Gospel today, how does a humble God help me if I allow myself to be yoked up to God? Let’s start by understanding what is a YOKE:
Most people think of a YOKE as that wooden “thing” around the neck of two animals, forcing them to stay together, so they can better pull a plough or a carriage: something that takes away their freedom, and makes them a slave of someone bigger, stronger or richer than them!
But what if I introduce to you a different type of YOKE: a yoke that curves around your shoulders and allows you to carry a load on each side of you? Like two buckets of water? These are used around the world, and some places use the correct term: YOKE.
I think this is a much better image to put in our minds because it immediately says:
1) you are free to go fast/slow, free to stop/start, free to increase/decrease the load;
2) you can carry a double load very easily;
3) you can carry a heavy load more easily than putting the bucket(s) in your hand directly;
4) you arrive at your destination a lot more healthy and energetic using the YOKE.
When we say God comes humbly, we mean that God comes as a friend who is willing to help us, but not willing to dictate to us how something should be done. God is patient – if we want to be lazy, God waits for us, and suffers with us. Like a mother/ father who has to watch their child make decisions that are harmful to themselves, by not listening to the parents!
However, when we are doing something, God is always willing to help, if we let God in!
When I was about 15, we had a mob of sheep (maybe 200) to bring into the yards for TLC (tender loving care). But the entry raceway was built for wild cows (a passage way), and was quite wide while I was still a “little man”. We had a wise sheep dog, Jem, who was assisting me. But I was busy running myself from side to side “pushing” the sheep and stopping the naughty ones from running away. As I ran back and forth, I would sometimes trip over the dog.
After some time, the dog decided to go home and jumped over the fence. I starting yelling at the dog to come back, but it ran away. I eventually got the job done, but was very exhausted at the end. My Dad had watched from a distance and just shook his head saying: why didn’t you let the dog have half the space and work together?
Young people, especially, have great energy, enthusiasm, strength and ideas to make a difference in their world and to improve the community. Sometimes they are reluctant to listen to advice because of pride, or a desire to show that they are “able” to do something: seeking respect and praise. This is all part of the journey of life: important and necessary. Unnecessary problems comes when we grow old and still act like a young person!!
As we get older, we tend to have more responsibilities, less time and less strength. And, this is where need to be a bit smarter! This is where the normal understanding of YOKE comes in.
Hopefully we have established a healthy pride in who we are and what we are able to do. So we are able to make sacrifices for others: we move into the servant role, instead of a tyrant! Instead of a focus on achieving glory for ourselves, we focus on helping others shine brightly. Marriage is a good example where a YOKE is needed: when husband and wife are pulling together, the family also moves better, achieves more and serves the wellbeing of their children.
When parents don’t work well together there is unhappiness for mum, dad and the kids. The question is: what kind of YOKE can bind the parents together in a way that brings happiness and builds a strong, stable family?
In Christian belief, we use the model of Jesus Christ: the humble presence of God who rode on a donkey and allowed himself to suffer for the wellbeing of his “family”.
What does this “suffering” involve today? Not too many of us are willing to get crucified! If we stay with the family example, perhaps the greatest need in families today is for presence, where parents take time to “waste” with their children, giving them opportunities to fail in activities and be corrected… hopefully gently!
Bottom line this week: we are reminded that God comes to help us become the best we can be: but we are free to reject God’s ways and go it alone: to certain unhappiness and loneliness.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI