Wednesday December 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 40:25-31) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:28-30)
In the readings today, there are a couple of things that on face value might seem, in fact, to be wrong. For instance, we hear in the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah: They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Then we hear the Gospel reading where Our Lord tells us that if we take His yoke upon ourselves and learn from Him, we will find rest, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Now if we look at it on the natural level, there are not very many of us, I do not suppose, who would be able to run or even walk very long and not grow faint or weary. And if anyone has taken up the spiritual life, you might look at it and say, “But sometimes what the Lord asks of us is quite difficult. Therefore, how can He say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light?”
But, at the same time, anyone who has worked through some things in the spiritual life understands that the only thing that is difficult is that we do not want to do it God’s way and we fight with Him. And because we fight with Him, we make it very burdensome for ourselves. As soon as we are willing to let go and do it God’s way, there is complete peace and joy and lightness and everything else. Then we stop and look at this and say, “If we would just do it His way then we are going to have this kind of ease,” not ease in the sense that there is not any struggle or difficulty, because the things of the spiritual life go rather contrary to the things of the physical life. The body does not always appreciate the things of the soul, and the body wants to do it its own way. The senses scream out because they do not always get what they want. So on the natural level, which is where most people are accustomed to dealing with things, it does not seem like a very light or easy thing. But on the spiritual level, once we give up, once we quit fighting and choose to do it God’s way, that is where we find that things are actually quite light and simple and we do not have to worry about it.
That is the whole point. A lot of the burden, as I mentioned, is self-imposed. We get worried, we get upset, we get concerned, we get afraid, and to what end? All of our worry and all of our fear does not make anything happen that would not have happened anyway, and it does not save us from having anything happen that would have happened. So what good is it? It does absolutely no good at all. It gives us indigestion and a heart attack, but beyond that there is nothing good that is going to come out of it (not that either of those things is good anyway). So why worry? Why be afraid? Why be upset? It is not going to cause anything good to happen. Nothing. What we need to do is just simply be at peace and do it God’s way. Then we will recognize the lightness of His burden.
Now for anyone who is toward the earlier stages of the spiritual life, one of the things that is the biggest burden (that is, what would appear to be the biggest burden) is the whole area of detachment. God asks us to let go of certain things, and of course we fight and fight and fight. Anyone who has been through it even once knows that as soon as you let go and just give up whatever it is He has asked you to give up, the lightness, the joy, the peace is beyond almost anything that you have ever known before. That is where you begin to see that His burden is light, that His yoke is easy. Our own, however, is not. We are lugging around all these worries, we are lugging around all these attachments, and we are burdened by it, we are weighted down by it. But Satan is there, saying, “But these are the things that will make you happy!” I have not seen one person yet who is happy with any of those things, but they are supposed to be, supposedly. Yet when I look at the people who have been willing to work through these things in the spiritual life, I find a joy and a peace that I do not find in other people. You begin to realize that if we just do it God’s way, we will have peace.
And the reason why we cannot run or walk and grow weary and burdened is because we are lugging around all the garbage. It is like trying to run pulling a U-Haul™ behind you; you are not going to run very far because there is too much weight. But when you get rid of all the junk and you do it God’s way, you can be light and you can soar like an eagle because there is nothing holding you down. Then the strength and the grace of God–because you are cooperating completely and doing it His way–is what will allow you to go and go and go. You will do whatever it is that He wants because what He wants is the best anyway.
That is what He is talking about. If we will come to Him, if we will do it His way, that is, take His yoke upon our shoulders, let Him be the one to guide us and direct us, then we will find peace, we will find rest for our souls, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.