Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

July 6, 2008
St. Vincent's Chapel 9:00 PM Mass

Reading 1
Responsorial Psalm
Reading 2

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…
I hope I don't scandalize you but today's Gospel never really made sense to me.
I have never found it easy to follow Christ.

One only needs to look at the cross and meditate on the garden of Gethsemane
To understand what I am talking about.

Yet Jesus plainly states "my yoke is easy and my burden light"
Why How ?
What Gospel is he talking about ?

Many years ago I received a strange call.
Priests often receive strange calls.
This person was looking for a priest to celebrate the Easter Vigil in a minimum security federal prison for women.

Because I was a campus minister and we did not have an Easter vigil I agreed.
I packed up my mass kit and headed off

When I finally cleared security and was escorted into the dining room I was almost immediately surrounded by very kind and welcoming women.

Most of them were Hispanic there were a couple of African Americans and a couple of white women. One woman appeared rather elderly, stately and distant in the back.

Even though I just did a couple of readings the Mass went long.
At the prayer of the faithful the women prayed for their families
and their children there were lots of tears and emotion.

It was very moving.
The sign of peace was also almost ½ hour.
The guard kept looking at her watch More hugs tears and support.
No one approached the rather stately and distant woman in the back.

After Mass one of the women noticed I had glanced at the woman in the back and volunteered the following information.
She let's no one come close to her.
We tried to be nice to her.
She thinks we are just trying to get something from her
She is so angry.
There doesn't seem to be a moment of peace in her life her
I have never seen her smile in years.

Those women taught me an incredible lesson that day.
With all their problems
With all the worries they had for their families and challenges they faces.
The support they shared and the care and concern they showed for each other

Proved to me that they had indeed aceepted the yoke of Christ
And by doing so they were able to carry their crosses
Face their mistakes
Face their loneliness.

Once in a while like
during the Sign of peace many of them seemed actually freed
freed them from their personal prisons
The love and support they shared freed them.

From what the other women told me
The woman in the back didn't ever appear free.

You see even
When forgiveness is not easy,
When care giving is not easy,
When humility is not easy,
Even when the cross is not easy,
When love is not easy,

They are all easier than hate,
They are all easier than greed,
They are all easier than always worrying about what people think of you
or that someone is taking advantage of you.

In the first reading the prophet Ezekiel foretells the coming of a messiah a savior.
Who will banish war and hate (the ways of the world) and bring us to something better something way better.
I would venture to say that that something better is the Yoke of Christ.

In the second reading St. Paul challenges us to step up and embrace the Spirit of Christ.
To forgo the flesh, the ways of the world,
To see things through the eyes of the Spirit of God
and live and love as Christ would have us do.

So what is this yoke that Christ offers us?
Put simply the Yoke of Christ is his call to follow his will.

When we put one the yoke of Christ we agree to live as he would have us live.
We agree to try to look at people and events like he see them.
We yes we even agree to the cross and sacrificial love.
The yoke of Christ may no be easy but it is definitely easier than the ways of the world,
easier than being consumed by greed
and hate
and anger
and being lost in narcissism

I don't judge lonely woman in the back
I don't judge her at all.
After all she was at the back of the room
I have prayed for her.
I wonder if she was every free
If she was really free even when she got out of prison?

Who knows.

I guess the question for all of us today is.

Have we
Do we
Will we embrace the yoke of Christ.

Will we accept it even when it seems so difficult
or will we be afraid.

Is it the ways of the world or the yoke of Christ
What will we choose
Where will we place our trust.

"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."

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