Burdens are eased when we place our hope in Christ

By: By Tim Irwin

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6

Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13-14; Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

Trials and tribulations both great and small punctuate this life. Each of us will experience times of great loss such as the death of a loved one. We will also deal with smaller, but perhaps more aggravating problems, such as forgetting to pay the utility bill or locking the keys in the car. The readings for this Sunday invite us to consider life’s trials and tribulations in light of our hope in the risen life of Christ.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” A yoke refers to a harness that makes it possible for animals or people to pull or carry something. If one would contemplate that notion, perhaps while sitting in the dark waiting for the locksmith, it might not sound like much of a solution — until we realize that Jesus’s yoke calls us to a fundamental rethinking of life.

In all things, Jesus does the will of the Father. This is his yoke. He can do this because he is meek and humble of heart. When we focus on doing the Father’s will, life’s annoyances ease and burdens lighten because in the perspective of God’s invitation to risen life, it’s just not worth getting aggravated over a temporary lack of transportation or an inordinate reliance on candlelight.

St. Paul expresses this notion in the second reading: “You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” To have the Spirit dwelling in us is to be in a state of grace. Living the Catholic life of prayer, sacrament, and service might be described as the struggle to get and stay in a state of grace.

Why this is such a struggle can be seen in the first reading from Zechariah: “See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”

To the ancient Israelites, this passage overflowed with irony. The new king would be expected to arrive on a mighty steed. His army, riding in chariots, stands ready to enforce his claim with the power of the bow. Jesus arrives in the humblest of ways, not to assert his kingship, but to do the will of His Father.

Have not each of us imagined ourselves like the triumphant king having everything our own way? When we assert ourselves we create the most burdensome of yokes. Trying to alleviate these burdens on our own terms may lead to a preoccupation with the pleasures of this life. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live,” says Paul.

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones,” says the Lord. When we undertake with meek and humble hearts, a yoke of prayer, sacrament, and service we become the little ones whose burdens are eased because of our hope in the risen life of Christ. Then the lights really will come on and we’ll be good to go.


Tim Irwin teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria.

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