SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 3:13-20; Ps 105:1, 5, 8-9, 24-27; Mt 11:28-]

We are all stressed and burdened in life.  Like the Hebrews during the time of Moses, we are burdened with so many demands and challenges.  We are miserable and unhappy, even for those of us who live in comfort, because of the responsibilities, guilt, fears and anxieties we carry on our shoulders.

Indeed, we are burdened by our past.  We cannot forgive ourselves for the mistakes that we had made.  We are laden by our sins; not only ours, but also that of our loved ones, friends and colleagues.  We keep going back to those unpleasant, shameful and hurtful events.  Such negative thoughts weigh us down and lead us into guilt and depression.  Indeed, most of us live in our past and hence cannot move on in life.  Often, the past causes us to react negatively towards new situations and new people that we meet.  We allow our painful past to cause us to be skeptical and prejudiced in the way we look at the present.

If we are not encumbered by our past, we are fearful and anxious about the future.  We are afraid that the crimes or the sins we have committed might one day be exposed.  We live in fear that the law will catch up with us one day.  If not, we fear that we might die one day in our sins and not be reconciled with God.  We are not too sure whether God will forgive us for committing such grievous sins.  If not anxious for our past sins, we are worried about our future, our children’s academic performance in school, their careers and relationships.  We worry that they might mix with the wrong company and fall into vice, like taking drugs, promiscuity, drinking and gambling.  Otherwise, we are worried about our health, our job, our promotion and our financial stability.  We worry about our elders and how we can take care of them.

In the meantime, we put on a brave front in dealing with the challenges and trials of everyday life, whether in looking after our children, dealing with a difficult spouse, nasty in-laws or even our parents and siblings.  We have to deal with so many demands placed on us by our family, workplace and our community.   Indeed, we feel so stretched and so tired trying to attend to the needs of everyone.  We feel so drained.  Often, we lack sleep and do not get enough rest.  Our body is showing signs of strain and reacting to the stressful life but we continue to ignore the signs of dis-ease in our body.   Many do not take care of their health, as we claim we have no time for exercise.  But our body is not a machine and soon it will break down.  Medical fees are exorbitant.  We might even lose our job and mobility because of ill health.

If we are feeling over-burdened, the good news is that God understands our misery.  He knows our burdens.  That was what He said to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.  “I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you.  And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites. the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.”   God wants to set us free from such an oppressive life.  He wants to give a life that is lived in true freedom and joy.

Indeed, He assures us that He is with us.  We are not alone.  When Moses thought that he had to save his people by his own strength, he felt totally inadequate.  But the Lord assured him that He would be with him.  “I Am who I Am. This is what you must say to the sons of Israel: I Am has sent me to you. I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there.”  So, the Lord does not expect us to carry the burdens of life by ourselves and with our own strength.  He carries them with us and for us.   He is with us.

But we need to come to Him in humility.  Jesus exclaimed, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”  The first step in finding rest for our souls is to come to Jesus.  This of course requires humility.  Indeed, many of us are too proud to come to Jesus.  We want to rely on our own strength and ingenuity.  We think we can solve all our problems and challenges in life using our energy and knowledge.  When St Augustine was asked what the most essential thing in faith was, his reply was, “First humility, second humility and third humility.” (Letter 118)  Indeed, humility is the foundation of everything, whether of faith, hope or love.   Jesus shows us His humility in His total dependence on His Father for everything.  He did not carry out the mission using His own strength and power but He would always turn to His Father in prayer and intimacy for help and wisdom.

Only humility will give us the courage to carry the yoke with Him.  This yoke that Jesus asks us to carry is not a yoke with a single neck but one with a double-neck resting on two animals.  In other words, Jesus does not want us to carry our load all by ourselves but to carry with Him.  But it is not just about carrying the yoke with Jesus.  It is cooperating with Jesus and helping the Lord to carry the burdens of life.  We are called to shoulder His yoke and learn from Him.   That is to say, it is not enough to carry our sufferings in life but we must learn from Jesus the right attitude to carry our burdens so that the demands of daily living will not overwhelm us.  We must learn from Jesus how to carry our crosses in such a way that we are not destroyed in the process.  The burdens of life must be carried with light-heartedness.  How can do we do this?

Firstly, the yoke refers to the yoke of the commandments and the laws.  We must not carry the yoke of the laws in such a way that they become burdensome when they are meant to show us the way to live a happy life in freedom and love.  Jesus Himself did not simply observe the laws but always sought to bring out the true intention of the laws.  Keeping Sabbath is more than just an obligation but for us to rest our body, strengthen our spirit by acknowledging God as the creator of life; build up our family and relationships with friends and not just confine ourselves to a life of work, making money and fulfilling our ambitions.  So, too, with divorce.  It is not so much about just keeping the couple together but to give the framework for a relationship that is stable and strong enough to withstand all the challenges in building a strong marital relationship.  To carry the yoke with Jesus is to understand all laws from the perspective of its intents and purposes so that we know the laws are made for us and not man for the Sabbath.  This yoke is carried in love and with love, not reluctantly.

Secondly, to carry the yoke of Jesus means submission to the will of God.  Instead of setting our priorities and our own vision of life, we must take direction from the Lord.  We must allow Him to lead the way instead of following our own.  When we insist on doing things our way and obeying our will, we end up causing more harm to ourselves.  This is because we are ignorant, foolish, and often mistake what is truly good for us.  The truth is that the yoke that is made for us is what truly fits us.  When we insist on carrying our own yoke and not the yoke given to us, we will find that yoke a misfit.  That is why it causes pain to us, and not just our neck!  Giving up our will is what brings us true peace and joy.

In other words, to carry the yoke of Jesus and learn from Him is to learn how to let go and let God take over.  We must give up our ambition except to do good and follow His will.  When we have no selfish ambition except to do God’s will, we can do everything joyfully and freely.  It does not mean that we do less or become complacent.  It means that we will do our best according to what the Lord has given to us.  But it also means that we are not ambitious and seek to win and achieve by hook or by crook.  We leave success to the Lord.  Our task is to cooperate with Him, carry our yoke with Him, allowing Him to lead the way and we follow in obedience.   When we learn to dance with the Lord, keeping in step, we will find that life is like a beautiful dance that brings joy and freedom.

Indeed, when we surrender our plans and life to the Lord, we can relax and celebrate.  When things are well and good, we can rejoice.  Even when things are not doing well, we can adapt and be detached, laugh over it and see the good that comes out of an unpleasant situation.  Knowing that the Lord is in control will give us strength and calmness.  If we think that we must be in control, then we are taking over the responsibility of God.  So let us live one day at time, liberating ourselves from the shackles of our past and the fears of the future.  Let us live fully as well as we can each day and each moment, knowing and believing that God is in charge and He will give us the strength each day to bear each trial that comes our way.  He is the “I Am.”   He is faithful to us as the psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, tell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, the judgements he spoke. He remembers his covenant forever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.

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