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The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 9, 2017

 

          Last week I spent a few days in the woods outside Leavenworth, at the Grunewald Guild, a Lutheran center that explores the connection between art and faith. A sweet place along the Wenatchee River, kind people, an ecumenical experience. Yet after the long drive to and fro on Highway 2, I can’t get big trucks out of my head.

            Big trucks, long-haul vehicles, mostly Kenworths, our home town brand, trucks whose cab doors start at the top of my Toyota’s windows. You have to admire the strength and power of these massive tractors, pulling their loads of what we need, and don’t need, from sea to mountain passes to shining sea. Irresistible. Big toys for big boys, I guess.

            As I weaved over the mountain roads sometimes leading them, more often following them up and down, I reflected that longhaul trucks are like the oxen that moved granite obelisks across ancient Egypt and dragged felled trees out of our cascades more than a century ago. Sturdy, hard-working, dependable.

            Yet the big red Kenwworth is different from the oxen of yore. The truck and driver is a single entity, working independently. Oxen, almost always work in pairs. And when the load was too heavy, additional pairs, other “teams” were added: from two beasts of burden to four, or six, or ten. All pulling together.

            When training oxen, a younger animal is placed alongside an older, more experienced beast. A skittish ox is placed beside a docile one. They learn how to work together, how to share the load their wooden yoke imposes on them.  They learn to hear their teamster’s voice, to follow his simple commands, working in tandem, sometimes male and female together, sometimes not. Sharing the load their yoke imposes on them, they pull together.

            “Come unto me,” says the Lord, “All ye who labor, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

            “But,” I whine, I plead, “my burden isn't light. Sometimes it’s just too heavy for me to bear. My missteps are many and painful, the losses too much for me to bear.”

            “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and I will give you rest,” says the Lord. 

            The deepest mystery we share is hidden in plain sight in that one simple line of the Gospel of Matthew. The truth is this: we do not have to bear the burden alone, for we are yoked together with Christ Jesus. There is no burden he did not carry, no sorrow he did not bear, with gentleness and humility of heart.

            In my baptism, in this Eucharist, I am joined with him, yoked together with him by the wooden beam of my own cross that I cannot carry alone. Yet I am consoled that he did not he carry his own cross alone either. A stranger, Simon of Cyrene, stepped out of the crowd that dreadful Friday afternoon, and took Jesus’ yoke upon him, and helped Jesus carry his cross and to drag the weight of our burdens and sins and losses to the top of the hill, where they might be transformed into hope.

            The good news today is simply this: we do not have to bear our burdens alone. We are yoked to Christ who knows the way, the truth of our sorrows and anguish and joys and hopes, the life we live plodding along towards the end of a road that ends we know not where. And moreso, because we are yoked not only to him, but to one another, sharing one another’s burdens, sharing one another’s load. 

            Look, today, as you come forward for Communion: look the meaning concealed in the procession we make, two by two. We come forward, two by two, to be fed so that we may continue to labor. The long train passes the length of our aisle, and out into the world, linked to all believers who share our weakness and our hope. Together we share the load.
            The big red Kenworth tractor effortlessly pulls its heavy load over Stevens Pass alone at 50 miles per hour. We, on the other hand, plod along the trail linked two by two with Jesus, in teamwork with one another. Together, we share the load.

            “Come unto me,” says the Lord, “All ye who labor, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Father Tom Lucas, SJ

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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