16 July 2009

Come to Me for My yoke is easy and My burden light

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Thursday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Ex 3:13-20, Ps 105:1 and 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27, Mt 11:28-30

"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."

Our Gospel passage today may be short but it does deliver its message.

1. Our embracing the Christian faith does not exempt us from the toils and difficulties of life.

In the First Reading, God gave Moses a very challenging task, one of epic proportion. God sets to liberate his Chosen People from slavery. For this to happen, Moses becomes His instrument, and the people have to co-operate in the work of salvation.

2. The burden of toil is not a punishment for our sins.

It is rather a liberating and life-affirming human act. Work gives dignity to the person.

I attended this morning a forum on the Philippine Human Development Report for 2008-2009. The talks presented how government and private sector efforts in the country and in the Bicol region are measuring up to the UNDP Millennium Development Goals. While some progress have been made, and the setbacks brought about by the global financial crisis have also been accounted, so many things still needs to be done. Yet the many people involved in the process are not in the least discouraged by the enormity of the challenge. Working for human development is meaningful work. Among other things, the employment opportunities that will be created by these programs will in turn raise not just the standard of living but the people's sense of personal dignity as well.

3. Our toil becomes easy and our burden light because Jesus is with us.

He is our friend, our companion in the journey of life. When we accept His friendship and lordship, we also accept His new life in us. His new life makes us see the world with new eyes. Grace enters the picture. And so, even the tediousness of toil becomes easy and work is seen according to its true nature: as a way to affirm our dignity, and a means of salvation.

4. Jesus' promise of a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light is also reflected in the feast we celebrate today.

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel who made an apparition to St. Simon Stock in July 16, 1251, wherein she gave him the brown scapular. The scapular comes with a promise: "...whosoever dies wearing this shall not suffer eternal fire".

The wearing of the scapular signifies the devotee's pledge of loyalty to Mary who points to Jesus, her Son, and the devotee's spiritual communion with the global Carmelite community, with its long tradition of commitment to the work of sanctification stretching back to Old Testament times. The wearing of the scapular evokes the image of a holy burden, one that brings grace!

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