The Gospel

Matthew 11:27-30
interpreted by Deborah

Jesus said, “My Father and I understand each other perfectly; and I’m here to share that knowledge with those who will hear it.

“Come to me, all who are weary and weighed down, and be refreshed. I don’t make any burdensome requirements; I am not rigid or demanding, but gentle and loving. Learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls, because what I ask of you is simple and easy to fulfill.”

God's Love Song

The Song of Songs 2:8-13
interpreted by Deborah

Listen! I hear the voice of my Beloved! Can’t you see Him? There! Leaping over the mountains, bounding across the hillsides as gracefully as a gazelle.

Look! He is standing behind the garden wall,
gazing in the windows, peeking through the lattice.

My Beloved calls to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; the storm is now past, the dark clouds are gone.

“The time for rejoicing has come: wild roses are blooming, and the turtledoves are singing love songs.

“Here all is sweet and abundant; the vines are heavy with grapes, their perfume fills the air. Arise! Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

Photo of a flower

Reflection by Deborah Beach Giordano
July 11, 2017

Yokes, then and now

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    Matthew 11:30 NRSV

yoked oxenWe don’t see many oxen pulling plows these days (except maybe on a National Geographic program), but in Jesus’ time they were as commonplace as bicycles are today. Passing a farmer’s field you would see two animals yoked together, stumbling over uneven ground, dragging a heavy plow across the parched, dry soil as it snagged on rocks and roots, or through a river of mud; constantly driven forward, goaded with a stick or whipped with a cord if they slackened their pace — depending on the nature of the plowman. A yoke was a symbol of harsh, unyielding labor.

Of course there were times and circumstances when different creatures substituted in place of the oxen. Slaves and servants and the desperately poor were much more plentiful, cheaper to maintain and easier to replace. There were plenty of yokes to go around; plenty of necks that were weighed down.

Without false melodrama, I think we can safely say that there still are.

Heavy Burdens

Our burdens may no longer require that we be “as strong as an ox,” — at least not physically, but we’ve still got them aplenty.

yokeLife can often feel like an ordeal: an incessant pulling-forward, struggling to reach the end of the row, the end of the day, the end of the semester, the end of the troubles, the end of the struggle. And to add to that any notion of doing good or “righteousness” as the Scriptures so often call it: working for justice, caring for those in need, visiting the sick … Heavens! It’s hard enough to slog through the day and make it home in one piece, tend to our responsibilities and then — with a few remaining moments, perhaps, collapse on the sofa and rest our weary bones.

And what of the emotional wear and tear of everyday life? Any thinking, reasonably-aware person is exhausted by the news and neurosis that permeates the very air we breathe like a toxic cloud. It adds another burden, that of fear and frustration, to the heavy load we carry.

Enough, Already!

All we need, all we want, is a little peace and quiet. Not to become hermits — though the notion is sometimes tempting! — but to be at peace in the midst of all that goes on: to know peace of mind and a tranquil, untroubled spirit. And it can be done. There are those who carry a calm centeredness with them; storms may rage, chaos may ensue, but they are not disturbed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; they remain focused, serene, and even gently joyful.

Don't hateI’m reminded of a long-ago commercial in which an attractive young woman intoned, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” It has recently been revamped as “Don’t hate me because I’m strong.” What about “Don’t hate me because I’m tranquil”? — that’s the envy I struggle against.

Even the young and fit will fall and grow weary (Isaiah 40:30). Strength is not enough. Even the strongest need to find rest. Even the fittest need hope and courage in order to persist.

How can we face another day, another week, another month, another year? Is there some magic formula that will see us through? It certainly cannot be found in shampoo or skin care products.

We ask now as the people asked in Jesus’ day. Perhaps they didn’t use the same words, but their hearts cried out, their spirits groaned, their eyes beseeched the Lord: “What can we do? Where is the hope for us? Give us rest, we are so weary!”

So Easy and So Difficult

And Jesus said (in essence), “The Father and I are one in the same in all the ways that matter. So if you listen to me, you’ll know what God is like. I’m not going to lay some heavy trip on you with lots of rules and regulations. I won’t lord it over you, instead I’m going to be by your side.”

Relax. Take a breath. Don’t stress over inconsequentials — and it turns out that everything is inconsequential! What matters is that we are loved; divinely, eternally, unstintingly, utterly.

gazelleJesus is the incarnation of holy compassion. He is the One by our side, the One Who Sees us and understands us. He is the Lover of our soul; God as portrayed in that shy, gentle, flirtatious — and then suddenly passionate creature who calls out to us in the Song of Songs: “I love you madly; come away with me!”

What if we accept as an absolute fact that we are loved — truly, madly, deeply? What if God is gloriously, passionately in love with us, and present with us, every day, in all that we are, in all that we do, in good times and in bad?

What if there is nothing that we need to prove, nothing that we need to do, no words we have to say, no demands that we must meet? What if we are loved, just as we are? What if, as we go through our everyday lives, God is pulling for us and pulling with us: wanting the best for us, deeply concerned for us, reaching out to us, loving the hell out of us?

What if we are enough, just as we are?

Jesus Our Lord

And they shall call him Emmanuel, which means “Our God is with us.”
    ~ Matthew 1:23

Christ, crucified

This Jesus, our Lord Christ, is the blessed assurance that we not been abandoned, we are not out in the cold on our own. “Our God is With Us.”

We follow Him for the very reason that scandalizes so many: the fact that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. That is what makes Him our Lord: he is the manifestation of God’s Compassion, God’s co-passion with our suffering and our pain; He is the One Who shows the way of God, which is not to stand aloof and unconcerned — God is not a cool, calculating celestial chess player, but a shirt-sleeves Lover who is alongside us: with us every step of the way. In our successes and our sorrows, in our struggles and our rejoicing.

That God is with us is the guarantee that our lives — that all lives — are holy and meaningful. They are made so not because of what we have done (or not done), but because of the Promise of Divine participation within them. God’s grace-full co-passion makes all that is worthy. We don’t have to “earn” God’s love — it is already there in perfect and complete fullness.

All will be well and all is well. Our God is with us. Take a breath. Relax. Let holy love infuse your soul with peace and serenity. All is well, all is well, and all things shall be well.

The Work of Love

What, then, of this “yoke” that Jesus speaks about? It is, I believe, most of all, to accept the Gospel truth as true: God is with us, God’s compassion is over all that is. It is to shoulder the responsibility to believe in your own inherent value and sacredness: God’s handiwork is holy. Be at peace, and let yourself be loved. And let your light shine, for it is a reflection of the One who gave you life and Who loves you — truly, madly, deeply.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah 

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Relax. Breathe. Let yourself fall into the Love that moves the sun and the stars.

Jesus’ teachings on the Law/Commandments

as given in the Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 5:16-18: Like a lamp in the darkness, let your light shine, so others can see your good deeds and give praise to your Father in heaven. Don’t think that I’m here to erase the Torah, but to fulfill it. I’m telling you: until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as the dot of an 'i' or the stroke of a 't' will disappear from the law, until all has been accomplished.

Matthew 7:12: In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you. This is the essence of the Law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The rest of the Torah is built on these two commandments.”