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The Yoke That Frees
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
At that time Jesus exclaimed: “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. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. 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.”
Opening Prayer: On this day when you remind us of the love in your Sacred Heart, O Lord, I come before you eager to be reminded. I believe in your infinite goodness and in your deep, personal interest in my life. I want to come to you more fully today, to find rest for my soul in a deeper experience of your grace. Open my mind to receive the grace you have in store for me today, Lord, and receive the offering of my life for your glory and for the advance of your everlasting Kingdom.
- Jesus Rejoices: Jesus rejoices at the beginning of today’s Gospel passage because at least some of his followers have trusted him enough to accept his teaching and his grace. Many refused—especially the well-educated and the powerful. But many of those who were humble, maybe not so well instructed, maybe not so popular and influential—many of “the little ones” accepted the gift of friendship with God that Jesus came to the world to offer all of us. And nothing fills Jesus with more joy than when we accept his gift of friendship by trustfully believing in what he taught and following where he leads. It’s interesting to think about that: Jesus himself, the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity experiences joy or sadness at our response to his invitations. This is perhaps the most striking thing about the revelations of the Sacred Heart. When Jesus revealed his heart to St. Margaret Mary back in the seventeenth century, it was encircled by thorns. Whenever someone says no to Jesus, whenever someone refuses to accept his gifts, whenever someone damages themselves and others by choosing to sin, it hurts Jesus. He truly cares. He cares more deeply than we can imagine. How firmly do I believe that? How real is that for me?
- I Am Chosen: In the first reading for today’s Mass, God reminds us through the words of Moses that “the Lord set his heart on you and chose you.” We matter to God, just because of who we are. He has “set his heart” on me. He has chosen me. This is true. This has happened. All the symbols involved in the rite of baptism reverberate with this personal, wild love God has for each of us personally. As the priest sprinkles the baptismal water on the person being baptized, he pronounces the person’s name. He anoints the person on the forehead and the chest, blessing the person’s lips and ears. The person being baptized is given a new garment, a while garment. The person is given godparents and a candle lit from the Easter Candle. The whole ceremony rejoices in this person being welcomed and embraced into God’s own family, chosen to participate fully in the new life of Christ and even to share in Christ’s own mission. God didn’t have to do any of this. He didn’t have to create us. He didn’t have to redeem us. He doesn’t have to reach out to us, to reveal himself to us, to walk with us. He chooses to. We matter to him. Going back to the words of Moses in today’s first reading, we need to courageously and humbly apply them to ourselves, to ask for the grace to see ourselves as God sees us: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God… the Lord set his heart on you and chose you…” (Deuteronomy 7:6) I believe, Lord—help my unbelief!
- Resting in the Lord: Jesus’s invitation at the end of today’s Gospel passage includes some of the most comforting words in all of sacred Scripture: “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.” Jesus wants to journey with us, right beside us—when two people are yoked together they are united in all they do; they are never alone and never have to carry their burdens by themselves. Jesus knows that our lives in this fallen world are hard, with the weight of our own fallen nature always pressing down upon us. If we trust him enough to repent from our self-centered ways and follow him–obeying his commandments and seeking to “remain in his love,” as the second reading puts it–our lives truly will change. They will be transformed by the fire of his love, of his Spirit, symbolized in the Sacred Heart revelations by the flames reaching out from Our Lord’s heart. Fire transforms what it comes into contact with, making it like itself by setting it aflame. When we trust Jesus enough to allow him to come into contact with every corner of our lives, we are transformed by him, become more like him, filled with his own Spirit and wisdom and courage and goodness. And that’s when our burdens also are transformed. They become places of redemption. That’s when our weariness is transformed. It is filled with the joy of hope that comes from knowing that we are heard, understood, valued, and accompanied.
Conversing with Christ: How can I come to you, Lord? Teach me. How can I take your yoke upon me? Show me, because I truly yearn to walk by your side, in friendship with you, every single moment of my life. I believe in your care for me. I don’t fully understand how you can transform my burdens and give me rest. But I trust in you. I just need you to show me how to believe in you more firmly, how to follow you more courageously, how to let your heart set mine on fire with the love of your Holy Spirit.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a special visit to a place with the Eucharist reserved in a tabernacle, and sit quietly with you, trying to silence the noise in my mind and heart so that I can simply give you the joy of receiving the love you have for me.
For Further Reflection: Fire and Thorns: A Retreat Guide on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.