The challenges that many people face seem insurmountable and overwhelming. I wrote recently of the parents of a young 18 year old that was killed in a car accident. They are not only grief stricken but inconsolable. I have spoken of a friend of mine, a woman involved in a run in with a snow plow in January whose life and that of her husband and children and family in that instant were changed forever. Her life will never be the same and her struggle will be unending. A longtime friend and now parishioner was just diagnosed with a rooted, cancerous tumor and given a limited time to live. And this came out of the blue to an active and dynamic individual and family. I buried this past Wednesday a parishioner who at the age of fifty-nine died of cancer. She loved life, family and children, working as an aide in a child care facility. On the day she died her husband suffered his second mild stroke in a week. How can people cope with such burdens? How can they not feel put upon, oppressed, devastated? What kind of cards were they dealt in life? I can see how people question their faith in God or feel that they are carrying burdens way too heavy to bear. What do you say to them?
As a person of faith, though, I am deeply convinced in the love that God has for me and for everyone whom he has called to himself. Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a time when we reflect upon that awesome love and it's consequences in our lives. In the Gospel for today from Matthew, 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."
What does the yoke of Jesus refer to here. A yoke was made for the oxen to wear in order that they could pull the plow or the wagon or the burden. They were custom made so as to make it possible for great loads to be carried without injury to the oxen. The Jews used the image of a yoke to express submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says that his yoke is easy. Well-fitted in a strong relationship of love with him, no task, no burden is unbearable or impossible. Jesus also says that his burden is light. There is an old song that reminds us of this that comes from a story of a man who met a boy carrying a crippled lad on his back. The man commented that the load must be overwhelming, to which the boy said "He ain't heavy; he's my brother." There is no burden too heavy to carry when it is accepted in love and carried in love. As the prayer of the Church today says: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that font of heavenly gifts." These are the words that sustain us, that give us hope, that help us survive. They are words that are backed up with the love of Christ for each of us in our best and our darkest of hours. It is a love that flows from that Sacred Heart into ours, and we are most grateful and willing to be yoked to Him.