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“The Family of God: In the Yoke Obeying Jesus
July 9, 2017
The Fourteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Song of Solomon 2: 8 – 13/Psalm 45: 7 – 15/Romans 7: 21 - 8: 1/Matthew 11: 16 - 19; 25 - 30
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
St. Paul said to his letter to the Romans, “What was written in earlier times was written for our instructions, so that by the encouragement of the Scriptures, we may learn from what our fathers had gone through, in what they failed in, and in what they succeeded in.” Psalm 78 says, “Be not like the fathers of before,” because their fathers were a stubborn and rebellious generation that did not prepare its hearts and who heart was not faithful to God. They perished because of their insistence on their ways, being intransigent and immovable.
In Jesus time, this also seemed to be the problem. Jesus opened the gospel by saying, “This generation is like this: people are sitting in the market place and one says to one group, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance. We sang you a dirge, and you did not weep.” They were set in their ways.
Likened to a bamboo, as long as it is young, it is easier to bend. You take advantage of its young years to form it to a shape you want it to take. If you wait too long, the bamboo would be too stiff and if you bend it, it will break. This is what parents should take advantage of at a child’s formative years. While he is young, train up the child in the way that he should go because when he is older, he would not depart from it. Wait until he is older, when he would already develop certain ways, and he would be set in those ways. This is why it is said, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Jesus also said, “God reveals His things to infants.” He did not reveal His things to those who think are wise and the intelligent. Jesus reveals His things to those who would accept it, to those who would receive it, and to those who would be teachable.
There is this theological book whose title says “Did It Ever Occur to You that You Just May be Wrong?” because many times, we are set in our ways and we reject things that are new to our hearing and to our thinking. God wants to speak to us and sometimes, when we reject what God wants to speak to us and to give to us; we miss out on the intended good.
I was blessed to go back to Boracay for my wedding anniversary, and one of the activities that I did there was called “Helmet Diving”. You put on a fifty- pound helmet on your shoulders, which is supposed to be your oxygen to enable you to breathe underwater. The goal is for you to stay underwater for at least fifteen minutes and play with the fish and appreciate their beauty. I tried it, but I couldn’t handle it. There was supposed to be oxygen under that helmet, but I was panicking, and I couldn’t breathe. I could not handle something that was meant for good and for beauty. What was meant for good to me to enjoy was dreadful to me. The helmet was there for one not to die underwater.
What is meant for life, we reject so we miss out on the good. We never can prove the delights of His love until we lay it all in the altar. Trust and obey; surrender to God. We need to relax. God has our lifeline. In rejecting God’s life, we miss out on its intended good. It is not about the source. The source is good; the intention is good; but it is our reception that makes it bad or causes us not to avail of it.
St. Paul said, “If you forgive and love your enemy, and if they receive it, it will be a blessing to them; if they don’t, it will be burning coals on their head.” We are being exhorted by Jesus to give up our way, to let go of it, and learn from Him. Come to Him and get the rest He wants us to have. Be open to accept. Maybe, our set ways may be wrong. The Bible says, “His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” We need to trust in the Lord, and not to lean on our own understanding.
Why did God instruct us to forgive? Wasn’t Jesus betrayed? Didn’t Jesus experience this when He became man? Didn’t He had friends, twelve of them, and all of them left Him? Jesus went through it Himself. Somebody said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We are only hurting ourselves, not the other person, when we don’t forgive. Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7. Isaiah says, “Keep your gates open continually. Welcome that. Be like God who has His arms stretched out all day to a stiff-necked people.” The problem is not with God. He has His arms open, but they would not avail of His love.
In Luke 19, a sad scenario is seen where Jesus was prophesying of the destruction of Jerusalem. He was weeping over the city saying, “How many times, O Jerusalem, that I would have wanted to gather you like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not have it? And because you reject the day of your visitation, because you reject the things that make for peace, destruction will come upon you, and not one stone will be left upon another in your city.”
Let go of your yoke. Let go of your way, and take God’s because His will for us. Don’t reject it. Relax and enjoy what He has for you because it is good. Not obeying is death. It means choosing death. When God said, “Don’t eat of that fruit,” He didn’t say, “Do not eat of that fruit or else I will kill you.” He said, “Don’t eat of that fruit because your disobedience will kill you.” You are choosing death if you don’t obey or you don’t take His yoke upon you.
Anxiety, worry, turmoil, lack of peace and all that is associated with fear are not from God. Fear is not from God. What is from God? Fruit of the Spirit – peace, joy, goodness amongst others. Everything else that we insist on that we carry weighs us down. They weary us and cause us to age fast, to have white hair. They also give us health problems.
In the Book of Revelations, the New Jerusalem is described as streets of gold and precious stones, that even the sidewalk is literally paved with gold. There is story of a rich person that on his death bed, he determined not to leave behind any of his wealth. He prepared two large suitcases and placed all his gold bars in them. He wanted to bring them wherever he was going. He died and he faced St. Peter who was standing at the gates of heaven. St. Peter saw him at a distance, struggling, carrying two suitcases. He was panting and he was so weary. St. Peter waited for the man, and when the man got to him, St. Peter asked, “What do you have? What are you carrying?” The man asked for a few minutes to catch his breath and finally said, “This!” He opened his two suitcases, and showed the gold. Peter said, “Why did you bring pavement? That is ordinary here! Why did you exert all your effort just to bring pavement here? That is what we step on everyday in this place. Why would you do this?”
Why do we struggle with our yoke when Jesus has something free for us? Why do we insist on having problems, being stressed out, and being weary when Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you. It is easy. My burden is light.” Sometimes, we are guilty of this, and we strive after the wind, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes. It is vain; it is wearisome.
Rest doesn’t mean no work, because God created man to work. God created Adam to cultivate the ground and keep the earth. There is still the yoke, but what God wants for us is peaceful work. We are not to struggle, but to have peace. The curse is working by the sweat of our face. The blessing is productive work, peaceful work where there is no anxiety or stress.
We will find rest for our souls, not for our bodies. The rest of the soul is what energizes the body. The Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies. In Jeremiah 6:16, the Lord says, “Walk in the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” It is sad that the people responded, “No, we will not walk in it.”
Romans 7 say, “While we share in the divine nature in our spirits, we need to put off the desires of the flesh.” We say no to the flesh, and learn from Jesus who doesn’t condemn anyone. We might say, “If Jesus doesn’t condemn, then, I can abuse the goodness of God.” No, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “I don’t condemn you, but sin no more.” He did not say to Bacchius, “It is okay to say in the tax office and continue with your corruption,” but He said to him, “Sin no more because salvation has come to this house.” Salvation means, “I don’t have to be in slavery to sin. Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy.” I wondered, “Is His yoke easy? Would those who have been persecuted agree that Jesus’ yoke is easy? To those who have been fed to the lions by the Roman Emperor, to those who have been burned in the coliseum, is that easy? St. Polycarp, at 80 years old, was going to be burned at the stake and God told him, “Be the man. Face this.” He ended up saying to his torturers, “You don’t have to tie me to the stake. Burn me, and I will not run.”
When our Church was evicted in Magallanes, which we call the siege of Magallanes, there was that time when I was trapped in the Bishop’s office with another priest. I got instructions not to open the door, so we did even if the armed officers forcefully knocked. To get to us, they axed the door until they could make a hole in order to reach the doorknob. The two of us were in turmoil, anxious and panicking. The men were able to enter and they could have easily massacred us. They didn’t touch us, but as I went out, I was able to say to a lawyer of our opponent, “What you are doing is wrong.” He said, “You have a restraining order,” and I said, “Don’t give me that legal trash. You know what you are doing is wrong.” The lawyer did not answer and he put his head down. My heart was not racing anymore. I was at peace.
When I reached the lobby, then, I felt my heart pounding. I really thought that I was going to have a heart attack. The peace that I had when I was facing the armed men and the lawyer was one hundred percent the grace of God.
As St. Policarp showed us, what human being can tell people not to tie him up so that he would not run while he is being set on fire? This is the grace of God. We won’t understand it, but if we reject it, we might miss out on what God has for us. Don’t resist. Let go of our ways. Let us do our part, and God will do the rest. Our part is, as Psalm 45 says: to listen, to give attention, and to incline your ear and walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Jesus wants us to take His yoke of obedience, not the yoke of slavery, resulting in eternal life, and we will find rest for our souls which is the will of God, and which is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.