Torch provides a new Catholic homily each week written specially for this web site by Dominican friars, and read by followers worldwide. Read more.

Take My Yoke Upon You

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Didier Croonenberghs preaches on the freedom of Jesus' yoke.

'Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'

Karl Marx famously wrote that religion was the 'sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it was the spirit of a spiritless situation'. At first glance, Jesus' words in the gospel of this Sunday may seem to offer a rather simplistic and strange way to follow. Come to me, all who labour and are oppressed, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke, and you will find rest.

In fact, we would not be far from Marx's view if we were to interpret these words as an invitation to accept our labour and predicament without complaint, as oppressed people accepting everything in the hope of finding the pie in the sky!

So, how could we properly understand these words? Christianity does not invite us to accept any kind of yoke like oppressed creatures. Rather, Christianity is a call to simplicity and authenticity.

Jesus' words are first of all a call to simplicity: as human beings living in society, we build our lives on principles, rules and laws, and we think that this will help us to grow. Yet, these laws and rules are necessary, but their existence cannot lead us to loose sight of the only reason why we need them: to reinforce our love for God and for our neighbours.

What Jesus invites us to discover is to do by love what we have been taught to do by duty, and this is simplicity, because, in this way, our only rule is the Love of God. Too often, however, we fulfil our duties simply by duty, like religious petty bureaucrats without freedom who forget the spirit of our rules and laws. This is precisely the reproach Jesus made to the Pharisees: to lose sight of the centre implies to make things more difficult.

Therefore, against the Pharisees who made the ancient law more oppressive, difficult and heavy, Jesus invites his disciples to take upon themselves his yoke, which is simple and light: the spirit of the law, which is Love. Deeper than the letter, which may seem heavy, lies the Spirit, which invites us in a life of freedom, aware of our boundaries and limits.

Jesus invites us, then, to take his yoke and to be simple by having only rule: his rule of love, hidden to the wise and understanding. Jesus invites us to live in the spirit, and to discern the Spirit behind the letter of the principles of our lives. As Paul reminds us in the second reading,

we are not in the flesh, but we are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in us?

Therefore, we are invited today not to make our rules more oppressive, complicated but more accessible, like true children of God. Of course, it does not mean that everything can be done, but rather that we do not have to be fettered by principles only, but bound first and foremost by love for God and our neighbours.

We are invited not to be 'religious petty bureaucrats', who follow punctiliously rules because they have to be followed, but to discern the spirit of love which underlies them. Too often, we are like wise and bright people, unable to discern what is simple and essential in our lives. We focus on details and on the letter of our principles - which can enslave ourselves - rather than on the spirit of the letter, which may set them free.

Jesus' words are therefore a call to authenticity. He invites us to be spontaneous and authentic, with an undivided heart. As the Son knows and is one with the Father, we have to be one in mind and not to have individualist Christianity. Let us learn from their mutual love how to be fully ourselves, without transforming our rules and principles into a fence cutting us off from what we truly are and what we have to do.



Zech 9:9-10
Romans 8:9,11-13
Matthew 11:25-30


gilbert lenssen commented on 28-Jul-2020 01:13 PM
Dear Father Croonenberghs,
thank you for your inspiring and truthful homily. Not to make the rules more oppressive and become religious petty bureaucrats is a wake up call for those in the Church who create divisions and attack our holy Father.
The rule of love also applies to those who are impatient with the (lack of) momentum for change in the Church.
Jesus took the sins of the world upon him and accepted his suffering. We are who labour to change the world to make it a better place are invited to take his yoke on our shoulders, accept our suffering and even despair, and thereby find our rest and become gentle in our pursuits.
You are dearly needed in Antwerp at St PaulĀ“s. We are eagerly waiting for you to become our sheppard without delay. We will welcome you with all the love of our Lord and the full support of the lay community. Yours, Gilbert Lenssen

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