Tag Archives: Gospel

My yoke is easy, my burden light

July 7, 2017

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JesusCarpenterShopGet serious, Jesus!  You say that your burden is light (Mt 11:30).  Hardly!  There are many times that I feel crushed by the burdens of life.  I have so many responsibilities.  There are so many jobs to do.  The days are so long.  I have to work so hard.  The demands are so constant.  There are so few breaks.  You say the burden is light.  I probably should not disagree with the Son of God, but I say that the burdens are huge, sometimes oppressive, and more than I can manage.

The yoke is a symbol for the burden.  A yoke is a wooden frame or harness attached to the shoulders of a pair of oxen to pull a plow or cart.  The yoke enables the oxen to pull much weight and do much work.  For a Christian, the yoke can symbolize the gospel, which the believer chooses to harness to their shoulders, with all of its duties and obligations, or it can symbolize one’s God-given vocation in life, with its endless tasks and responsibilities.

The yoke is far from easy.  It is a burden to live the gospel, such as to speak and insist on the truth in the midst of distortion and dishonesty, and then to bear the burden of the consequences.  It is a burden to accept the vocation as a parent with the endless jobs that follow:  getting up at night, feeding the baby, changing diapers, giving baths, doctor appointments, and everything else that goes with being a mother or father.

How is it, then, that the yoke could be easy?  Jesus and Joseph worked in a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth (see Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3).  Carpenters are woodworkers, and much of their craft is to make items for the home:  tables and chairs, door and window frames, and doors.  Nazareth is surrounded by farmland, and farmers went to the carpenter’s shop to get yokes for their oxen.  Jesus would have made many yokes over his long career in the carpenter’s shop.

Oxen come in different sizes and shapes, particularly the bone and muscle structure of the shoulders.  If the yoke does not fit properly, it hurts to pull and the oxen refuse to work.  Therefore, each yoke has to be tailor-made, individually form-fitted.  Jesus was an expert both at measuring the oxen and customizing yokes that fit just right.  When the yoke fits properly, the oxen will pull and do an enormous amount of work.

When it comes to a person’s calling or vocation in life, a person’s “yoke,” each one is individually tailor-made by God.  One is called to be a parent.  Another is called to be a school teacher, a nurse, a technician, or a cook.  Every calling is burdensome, but because the yoke is form-fitted to the individual by God, and when a person accepts their vocation, the person gains a sense of purpose and determination, which makes the burden lighter.  God supplies the energy to carry the load, and renews the energy day by day, all which makes a heavy burden lighter.

The main factor affecting the weightiness of the burden is love.  If a parent loves their infant child, the burden of getting up at night, feeding the baby, or changing the diaper instantly becomes light.  Similarly, when teachers love their students, health care professionals love their patients, and workers love their customers, their workload becomes light, not because the job is easy, but because the burden is carried willingly and joyfully.  When love of God and neighbor is the driving force, what would otherwise be a burden is light.

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Listen to Jesus: The Second Sunday of Lent’s Message

March 18, 2011

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Transfiguration Church in Mount Tabor, Israel

The Transfiguration is the gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent in all three of the liturgical cycles: Mt 17:1-9 in Year A; Mk 9:2-10 in Year B; and Lk 9:28-36 in Year C.

This gospel does not appear by happenstance, but was chosen by the Church for early Lent for a vitally important reason. The main message was spoken by God the Father and is intended to guide us on our forty-day journey through this holy season: “This is my chosen Son, listen to him” (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35). If we wish to turn away from sin and be more firmly rooted in the gospel, the spiritual objective for Lent as given on Ash Wednesday (Mk 1:15), and if we wish to grow in holiness and be well-prepared to celebrate the Triduum, particularly Easter, the best way to do so is to spend Lent listening to Jesus.

To listen to Jesus is what God wants. God the Father rarely speaks in the gospels, only twice. Because his words are so few, and because they are so momentous, we should sit up and take notice. The Father’s first statement at Jesus’ baptism explains who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son,” and his second and final statement at the Transfiguration explains how the Father wants us to respond to his Son: “Listen to him.”

The Transfiguration account confirms the teaching authority of Jesus. Jesus stood between Moses, the Word of the Law symbolized by the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, and Elijah, the Word of Prophecy symbolized by a scroll or a book. By standing with Jesus, Moses and Elijah endorsed his teaching mission and transferred their lead roles as law-giver and prophet to him. Jesus is the Word (Jn 1:1), and the proper response is to listen to him.

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus himself explained: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), and Peter accurately replied, “Master, you have the words of everlasting life” (Jn 6:68). If we want to have a full and meaningful life on earth, and if we wish to enjoy everlasting life in heaven, then we must listen to him.

Please, listen to Jesus every day this Lent. It is easy to do. Open the Bible, read a gospel passage, and reflect on it. Go to Mass, pay careful attention to the readings, and listen to the homily. Set aside quiet time for prayer, and listen to Jesus speak to your heart. Watch a movie like Jesus of Nazareth or The Passion, and listen to what he says and does. Do some spiritual reading and listen to Jesus speak through the author. Be kind to another and listen to Jesus speak through your neighbor. Please, listen to Jesus and have a good Lent.

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Christians may appreciate sci-fi look at the Magi

January 11, 2011

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Science fiction really isn’t my taste, but this Christmastide I savored an interesting, action-filled novel about the Three Kings.

Probably is best termed historical fiction with leanings toward sci-fi, “Epiphany: The Untold Epic Journey of the Magi” is a terrific read. The sci-fi flavor offers a new take on the old story of the wise men who followed a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem.

I normally don’t go for stuff about humans with super powers — too much deus-ex-machina for me. But author Paul Harrington doesn’t allow the magic to get in the way of his interesting tale of Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar and all they ran into as the star led them to the place when they could pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews.

Harrington’s fictionalized version of the travels of the Magi is just that — fiction. Matthew’s Gospel reveals only that the Magi came from the east. But Harrington holds fairly close to the basic storyline in the gospel, and the creativity he adds to the scriptural text does nothing to take away from the birth of Christ and the events the gospel writer saved for posterity.

Put a tickler on your calendar to pick it up next Advent when you’re once again setting up your Nativity Season and take the journey to Jesus with some wise men. — bz

(“Epiphany: The Untold Epic Journey of the Magi” is available at http://www.epiphany-site.com and http://www.Amazon.com)

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Catholic and want to know more about Jesus?

June 28, 2010

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Jesus cover

“Jesus,”

by Paul Johnson

Ever felt uncomfortable discussing religion in a mixed-faith setting because you don’t feel you’ve really “kept up” with matters of faith?

Paul Johnson’s brief (226 pages) easy-reading story of Jesus — subtitled “A Biography from a Believer” — will get you up to speed with some facts Catholics should know. It will also remind you what Christianity values and why you value your faith life. Johnson is an unabashed cheerleader for the faith, and he writes early on that he wants to share “the joy and nourishment” of following Jesus’ footsteps and pondering his words.

Although I’ve read a lot of religious material, reading “Jesus” gave me a much better mental picture of the era in which he walked this earth, helping me place his life in the time of not just Julius Caesar but Ovid, Livy and Seneca, the Romans whose writing has put life in the Roman Empire into our hands.

But I’d hesitate before giving Johnson my complete trust as a biographer or historian, and I think he’d find that perfectly acceptable.

Meet a new Jesus

In my notes I kept jotting down “first I’ve heard of that,” which did make me suspicious that some of Johnson’s “biography” might be suspect. For example, he writes that Mary was a source for Luke’s gospel, that Jesus’ baptism was witnessed by a large crowd, that one task of the apostles was to “protect” Jesus, and that Jesus’ “few days of rest were spent fishing.”

What these might very well be called would be “guesses.” Johnson says they are “mere deductive supposition.” When he describes Jesus’ appearance and the way he held himself, I’d call that analysis without basis of fact. Yes, Jesus did teach at meal time, but did he “love” to?

But whether or not Jesus could recite Homer and Virgil is less important than the aura of Jesus that I think readers will get about the subject of this “biography.” You’ll meet a new Jesus here, one you’ve likely never thought about in the same way.

Johnson offers us a pleasant, colloquial way of absorbing Jesus’ teachings in somewhat of a condensed version of the gospels, and he follows up by explaining why Jesus taught those lessons.

Don’t miss the homilies

The most useful section of the book may be Johnson’s explanation of why Jesus came and what Johnson charges might be a “New Ten Commandments” Jesus taught. You can see the list below, but it’s Johnson’s writes a page or more about each, and every one could serve as a homily worth hearing.

Johnson calls Jesus’ teachings a moral and social framework that have been invaluable to our world, and, if this book were this section alone it would be enough to inspire every Christian to re-commit themselves to following Jesus’ more closely. Here’s the best part:

“Human progress has proved an illusion as often as not. In many ways our society is no better organized and led than in those weary days two m ago when men like Herod and Pilate ruled. Insofar as we have improved — in the way we look after the poor, the sick, the infirm, the powerless; in our treatment of children; in moral education and training; in penology and the redressing of grievances; in the effort to spread material welfare and to encourage people to show kindness to one another and help their neighbors in difficult times — these improvements have come about because we have had the sense, the sensibility, the intelligence, and the pertinacity to follow where Jesus led. If goodness has a place in our twenty-first century world, it is because Jesus, by his worlds and actions, showed us how to put it there. No other man in history has had this effect over so long a time, over the whole of the earth’s surface, and over such a range of issues.”

If that’s not enough evidence to believe in God, I don’t know what would be. — bz

“Jesus’ New Ten Commandments”

1. Each of us must develop a true personality. We have a duty to be aware of our existence as an act of God’s creation

2. Accept and abide by, universality. Each soul is unique, but each is part of humanity.

3. Respect the fact that we are all equal in God’s eyes.

4. Love is a must in human relationships, at all times and in every situation.

5. We are to show mercy just as God shows mercy to us.

6. Keep balanced; don’t be an extremist.

7. Cultivate an open mind.

8. The pursuit of truth, unabridged, simple and pure, unstained by passion, is the most valuable of human activities.

9. Use power carefully, and pay due respect to the powerless.

10. Show courage.

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Illustrated book for young readers shows how Black America has lived the Beatitudes

May 6, 2010

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beatitudes cover

“The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights,”

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

What a great tool to counter the cultural stereotyping and racism that is so much a part of American society.

Author Weatherford’s pen is poetic as she walks readers through the history of the Black experience from the ships that carried spiritual-singing slaves through centuries of segregation and bigotry to the hard-fought years of the Civil Rights movement and even up to the glory of the election of the first African-American U.S. President.

The background music for the journey is the Beatitudes, that striking teaching of Jesus that is captured for us in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 5: 3-12).

As your read about the heroes and heroines of Black Americans  and see their images in Ladwig’s colorful paintings, you can’t help but recall the phrase “blessed are” for each and every one. Some are their names are well-known to adults —  Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. — but may be new to the young readers for whom this Eerdmans title is intended. Other names will be new to adults as well.

Thankfully, a brief biographical paragraph of each individual is included in the back of the book. These short sketches will be educational for young and old alike.

This is a great book to buy for the young readers in your life. Cheat, though. Read it yourself before wrapping it as a gift. Better yet, have that young reader read it aloud to you. You’ll both be blessed. — bz

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