7th December 2022
JESUS CARRIES OUR BURDENS WITH US
Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Ambrose was born in Trier (now in Germany) between 337 and 340, to a Roman family: his father was praetorian prefect of Gaul. Ambrose was educated at Rome and embarked on the standard cursus honorum of Roman advocates and administrators, at Sirmium, the capital of Illyria. In about 372 he was made prefect of Liguria and Emilia, whose capital was Milan. He became a bishop in 374 on 7th December.
He was assiduous in carrying out his office, acting with charity to all: a true shepherd and teacher of the faithful. He was unimpressed by status and when the Emperor Theodosius ordered the massacre of 7,000 people in Thessalonica, Ambrose forced him to do public penance. He defended the rights of the Church and attacked the Arian heresy with learning, firmness and gentleness. He also wrote a number of hymns which are still in use today. Ambrose was a key figure in the conversion of St Augustine to Catholicism, impressing Augustine (hitherto unimpressed by the Catholics he had met) by his intelligence and scholarship.
As we celebrate the memorial of St. Ambrose we ask ourselves this questions in line with today’s Gospel. What kind of yoke does the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us? The Jewish people used the image of a yoke to express their submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says his yoke is “easy”. The Greek word for “easy” can also mean “well-fitting”. Yokes were tailor-made to fit the oxen well for labor. We are commanded to put on the sweet yoke of Jesus and to live the heavenly way of life and happiness. Oxen were yoked two by two. Jesus invites each one of us to be yoked with him, to unite our life with him, our will with his will, our heart with his heart.
Jesus also says his “burden is light”. There's a story of a man who once met a boy carrying a smaller crippled lad on his back. That’s a heavy load you are carrying there, exclaimed the man. His not heavy; he’s my brother! responded the boy. No burden is too heavy when it’s given in love and carried in love. When we yoke our lives with Jesus, he also carries our burdens with us and gives us his strength to follow in his way of love. Do you know the joy of resting in Jesus' presence and walking daily with him along the path he has for you?
In the Advent season we celebrate the coming of the Messiah King who ushers in the reign of God. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would establish God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Those who put their trust in God and in the coming of his kingdom receive the blessings of that kingdom -peace with God and strength for living his way of love, truth, and holiness (Isaiah 40). Jesus fulfills all the Messianic hopes and promises of God’s kingdom. That is why he taught his disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In his kingdom sins are not only forgiven but removed, and eternal life is poured out for all its citizens. This is not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one.
Dear brethren, the yoke of Christ’s kingdom, his kingly rule and way of life, liberates us from the burden of guilt and disobedience. Only the Lord Jesus can lift the burden of sin and the weight of hopelessness from us. Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden of sin and despair for a yoke of glory, freedom, and joy with him. The yoke which the Lord Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of power and freedom to live in love, peace, and joy as God’s sons and daughters.
Lord Jesus, inflame our hearts with love for you and for your ways and help us to exchange the yoke of rebellion for the sweet yoke of submission to your holy and loving word. Set us free from the folly of our own sinful ignorance and rebellious pride that we may wholly desire what is good and in accord with your will.