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Upon Reflection

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Feast of St. Francis

Gospel                                                                                                Mt 11:25-30

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."

Don't Break the Yoke!


Upon Reflection:  The “yoke” metaphor that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel is not with an egg (yolk), but with a “yoke,” a wooden frame for harnessing two draft animals to whatever they have to pull. (Many of us do not like to admit how long it took before we got that one straight!) He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” 


Every “old-school” farmer knows that when training a new beast of burden, you always pair it with an experienced one.  The neophyte then learns from walking side by side with the one who knows the way.  


So with whom does Jesus pair up?  Answer:  All who labor and are burdened.  Make no mistake, Jesus is talking about the uneducated, non-influential, unaccounted for, and powerless people who physically work hard every day not to get ahead and make a profit and climb up the ladder, but to simply just put food on the table.  These are the people to whom he says, “ Walk with me, I can work with you.”


Notice who he does not invite to learn his Way of meekness and humility – “the wise and the learned.” (Again, he means the wise and the learned by the world’s standards, not by God’s standards).  Jesus can’t work with those people.  He can’t reveal the Father to them. 


“Why not?” we may ask.  I am convinced that it is because meekness and humility cannot be intellectualized. One cannot argue and shrewdly debate one’s way to meekness.  One cannot study and publish papers as a means to obtaining a doctorate of being humble.  There are no meekness and humility stocks into which one can “wisely” invest and see it grow over time, and there is certainly no military victory that can win these things.  


Meekness (which in the word includes the notion of nonviolence) and humility can only be learned by following the example of the truly meek and humble.  It’s the “little ones” who can carry that yoke with Jesus and can learn how to do it as perfect as he because they have never really learned any other way.  It’s the “wise and the learned” who will fight him every step of the Way because power, recognition and wealth are the only gods they want to know.

Knowing all we know about "The Franciscan Way," it no wonder that the Church chooses this Gospel for the Feast of St. Francis.  Meekness and humility are at the heart of Franciscan values.

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