There was a time when the best compliment you could pay to someone was to call him or her a very gentle person. Today, however, violence is more popular then gentleness. Television, the movies, the communication media, in general, has given violence a top rating because violence is what people want to hear about.
All of this violence has taken a toll on us. We have coined new expressions like “battered woman” and “abused child”. Our own families sometimes reflect the violence of our age. Remember the famous trial Menendez brothers trial where two sons were convicted of murdering heir parents; or the mother convicted of drowning her two children.
How different from what Jesus teaches us today in the Gospel! “Learn from Me,” Jesus says, “For I am gentle and humble of heart”. The prophet Isaias foretold the gentleness of Jesus when he said: “He will not shout or raise His voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed nor put out a flickering lamp.”
A perfect example of the gentleness of Jesus is the way He handled the case of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was gentle with the woman but also with her self-righteous accusers. Jesus didn’t shout and rave. He didn’t scream and yell. He simply bent over and began to write in the sand with His finger.
On Palm Sunday, we remember the event of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem – it was prophesied in today’s first reading. At the time this prophecy was written, Alexander the Great had conquered the world at the age of 21. His custom was to enter a conquered city with a tremendous display of power, riding in full armor upon a horse dressed in armor as a sign of his power.
In contrast, Zachariah speaks of the Messiah entering Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey – He would come in peace to gather His people. The rabbis of the old testament spoke of the Torah as the “yoke”. Whoever wished to follow God must accept this yoke consisting of 613 laws plus the interpretations which had been handed down with it.
In contrast, Jesus says his “yoke” is easy and his burden is light. Jesus replaced the Torah; the yoke is Jesus Christ Himself, not the law. Jesus calls us to be gentle. He held up for our imitation the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep. He didn’t beat the sheep or drag it home. He placed it gently upon His shoulders and carried it home.
Jesus also held up for our imitation, the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The father didn’t reprimand his wayward son. He didn’t hassle him when he returned home; he hugged him.
Jesus also teaches us in today’s Gospel that we must have the attitude of children. A child has little or no worries because the child trusts that his or her needs will be taken care of by the parents. For the child, life is exciting and fresh and new every day.
But we get older, we lose that sense of trust, dependence, wonder, and awe. We worry about making a living, preparing meals, washing clothes, and paying bills. We seem to lose the freedom that we had as children – as a result, life becomes weary, burdensome, dull, and boring with no enthusiasm for living.
When the daily pressures of life close in, we begin to tighten up and prepare for the fight and all the worries. God gets shoved into the background; God becomes hidden.
This weekend, we celebrate the 237th birthday of America. We celebrate the birth of a concept – that all men and women are created equal, that we have the right to be free, and that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As the ideals of America’s founding fathers are often watered-down to suit political and cultural demands, the teaching of Jesus has also been watered-down as many look for short-cuts and detours around living the full and complete life which Jesus has given to His church. Jesus not only has the solutions to our personal problems, He is the solution to our national problems; in fact, He is the solution. He offers us refreshment: – He offers us a new life – a new way which is not burdensome.
May all of us accept His yoke upon our shoulders – for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.