Freedom

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls a certain set of people to him—all those who labor and are burdened. Commenting on the phrase “labor and burdened,” St. Thomas Aquinas says that “labor” refers both to God’s law and commandments as well

For Sunday, July 9th, 2023

Reading

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.

Matthew 11:25-30

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls a certain set of people to him—all those who labor and are burdened. Commenting on the phrase “labor and burdened,” St. Thomas Aquinas says that “labor” refers both to God’s law and commandments as well as our human fragility. Man’s labor is to follow the commandments of God in man’s weakened state. On the other hand, St. Thomas says that “burden” refers to the weight of sin.

As St. John Chrysostom says, “Nothing so weighs upon the soul, and presses it down, as consciousness of sin; nothing so much gives it wings, and raises it on high, as the attainment of righteousness and virtue.” When Jesus promises to give rest to the laboring and the burdened, he is inviting them to a life of virtue—a life of freedom.

To accept this freedom, we must take Christ’s yoke upon us and learn from him: “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” This is a rather confusing teaching. Jesus is freeing us from labor and our burden by promising us his yoke and his burden. Christ’s burden seems heavier than the commandments of the Old Law, for he says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old: ‘you shall not kill’ . . . But I say to you, that everyone who is angry with his brother, shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21–22). But his burden is light because it changes us at our core—our hearts. While it is difficult for a man filled with hatred to avoid murder, it is easy for a man filled with God’s freeing love to avoid anger.

Jesus gives two reasons why we will find rest when we take his yoke and his burden. He has the path to freedom because he is “meek and humble of heart.” St. Thomas says, “[T]he whole new law consists in two things: in meekness and humility. By meekness a man is ordered with respect to neighbor . . . By humility, one is ordered with respect to himself and with respect to God . . . Hence humility makes a man receptive of God.” When we imitate Christ’s meekness and humility, we have a right ordering toward ourselves, toward others, and toward God.

Do not fear Christ’s yoke; do not back away from the yoke that lightens all things. Rather, place yourself under it with all haste, and then you will know the pleasure of Christ’s light yoke. For it will not bruise your neck; it will lead you along the narrow way, teaching you how to walk seemly, ordering your every action toward the Lord.

In your prayer, today, ask the Lord to give you freedom by yoking you to a virtuous life; pray for the strength to bear this yoke. Then, learn from Christ how to live in virtue—being meek and humble in heart.

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