Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take My Yoke Upon Your Shoulders

Exodus 3:13-20
Moses, hearing the voice of the LORD from the burning bush, said to him,
"When I go to the children of Israel and say to them,
'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,'
if they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?"
God replied, "I am who am."
Then he added, "This is what you shall tell the children of Israel:
I AM sent me to you."

God spoke further to Moses, "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
"This is my name forever;
this my title for all generations.
"Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and tell them:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
has appeared to me and said:
I am concerned about you
and about the way you are being treated in Egypt;
so I have decided to lead you up out of the misery of Egypt
into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,
a land flowing with milk and honey.

"Thus they will heed your message.
Then you and the elders of Israel
shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him:

"The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent us word.
Permit us, then, to go a three-days' journey in the desert,
that we may offer sacrifice to the LORD, our God.
"Yet I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go
unless he is forced.

I will stretch out my hand, therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds of wondrous deeds there.
After that he will send you away."

Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said:
"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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When Moses heard the voice from the burning bush, sending him back to Egypt, to free the children of Israel from slavery, he had one question: “When I say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’, what shall I tell them?”

The LORD said to Moses, “Yahweh”. That is what you are to say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me. The LORD, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you.”

“The elders of Israel with listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has asked us to go into the desert for three days to offer sacrifices to him, the LORD our God.’ But Pharaoh will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So, I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with wonders that I will work among them. Then, he will let you go.”

The LORD has made a covenant with Moses, and with the people of Israel, and he will be faithful to his covenant. He will be, because He is God. The other side of the question is: will the people be faithful to their commitment to the covenant. They will not be, because they are human. In fact, it will take forty years for their caravan to travel from the Gulf of Aqaba to the banks of the Jordan, a journey that should take no more than a week.

The same is true for you and me. When we find it difficult to live up to the covenant our parents made on our behalf in Baptism, and that we assumed responsibility for in Confirmation, we tend to ignore our commitment. When we put ourselves first, instead of what God asks of us, we do not remember the covenant. We are burdened under the weight of living in a world full of temptations, attractions, selfishness, greed and pride. Because of our fallen nature, we tend to fail more often than we succeed, and we easily become discouraged. At such times, we tend to form habits that make it even more difficult for us to come back, even though God, who is forever faithful, is always there for us.

Jesus, in the gospel, reminds us that the struggle does not have to be so difficult. He invites us to join him in a new covenant by being yoked to him. It is an image which was much easier to understand for our ancestors, who grew their own crops and tilled their own fields.

This new covenant builds on the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac and Moses, but it is different. This is more of a shared undertaking, a partnership, than the older covenant, because it is founded on Jesus, who not only shares the same nature as the Father, but also shares our own human nature. When Jesus tells us that we can learn from Him, that the yoke is easy and the burden light, He is promising to help us from His own experience, knowing us better than we know ourselves, and guiding us in how we can respond more fully to God’s call.

Following in the path set forth for us by the Father can certainly be a challenge, but we are not alone in the struggle, we have Jesus at our side as our companion and our guide. When we stumble, He is there to pull us along, for we share the yoke with Him.

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