Plans to live it up on my turns stifled any ability to listen to God's plans. I thought as long as I could "punch the ticket" on Sunday morning, did a few good deeds here and there, and didn't murder anybody, the rest of life was mine to live as I please. Needless to say, I was deaf to any calling he was making of me, and even if I had heard it there was no desire whatsoever to carry out someone else's plans, even if that someone did happen to me the Creator and Lord of all things visible and invisible.
Thanks be to god that he quickly broke that status quo and supplied the humility I needed, and has continued with maintenance doses of many and varied forms throughout the past decade of adult life. I say thanks be to God because, a dose of humility from without is a bitter but necessary pill, to clean and sweep our souls for a true indwelling, and without it, the words spoken by our Lord in this past week's Thursday Gospel would have continued to be nothing but noise and mystery to me:
"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" (Mt 11:29-30)
"What? Easy and light?" would have been my response back then. "All these rules and commandments about what I can and can't do, and how I am obligated to love even complete strangers and even my enemies, how I'm supposed to carry a cross through life and accept any struggle, pain, and humiliation that comes with it? How in the heck is that easy and light? Sounds like a bum deal."
It is only with humility, whether found within (the easy way) or given from without (the hard way) that the sweetness and lightness of the yoke comes comes. The 14th Century Domincan priest, Father John Tauler (+1361), explained the idea further far better than I ever could:
Now, to what people is this yoke sweet and light, as they accept it and bear it along? Surely only to those whose thoughts are turned inward in search of God, and quite turned away from all created things. Children, our souls ever stand on the boundary line between time and eternity. If we turn toward time, we shall without doubt forget eternity, and soon be led far away from the things of God. Whatever we see from a distance looks small; whatever we see close at hand looks large, for there is but little intervening space. Thus the sun is many times larger than the earth, but if reflected in a cup of clear water on a summer's midday it seems no bigger than a little bean, and any little object that should come between the sun and that mirror would be large enough to take away entirely the image of the great luminary.
So it is with a man's soul. No matter how trifling may be the earthly image he places in the depths of his soul, it is enough to interfere with God's life shining there; the infinite good that God is may easily be hindered from entering and possessing the soul of a man. And this is equally true when it happens that the image in the soul is not an evil and little thing, but a great and really good thing; it may hinder the entrance of God, who is without any image or intermediary whatsoever. Know, therefore, for a certainty, that in whatever soul the infinitely good God shall be mirrored, it must be totally freed and emptied of all images; if the soul reflects a single created thing, that is enough to exclude the reflection of God. All souls who have not established in their very depths this freedom from creatures, who have not uncovered and laid bare before God their innermost recesses, are as yet only scullions in the divine service, and to them God's yoke is bitter. And, says Origen, the man who has not looked into the deeper depths of his being has a plain sign, that as yet he has not tasted of the eternal sweetness of God....And all who cleanse the mirror of their souls perfectly clear of the images of created things, so that God may pour in the sunlight of his divinity quite unobstructed, to them his yoke is sweet beyond all other possible sweetness.Indeed. In case you haven't figured it out yet, the world's yoke is crushing. Why else in a world where we are supposed to have so much to make us comfortable--and where even the poor among us live better than most of the wealthy did just a few hundred years ago--are so many people, even people of means, so depressed, anxious, and hungry and thirsty for meaning in life. Why is it that the emptiness and loneliness is sometimes far greater when the trappings are more plentiful, and that the world with its plethora of feel-good psychology, conscience-is-king pop spirituality, and the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed in the last two decades?
We as people being spiritually killed by the yokes we have allowed the world to place around our necks. For a broken world that sees us not as people longing for answers to the deepest questions of the heart, but as commodities to be bought and sold, all it can offer is temporary, fleeting happiness at best, and at worst (more often than not) disappointment and bitter brokenness. So, why not try out the yoke that the Master of hearts, the one who can only answer the questions of the heart with truth because by his very nature he is only capable of truth? Why not let him clean off the mirror of our souls as he desperately wishes to do. After all, what have we to lose? In the case of the world and what it wishes to take, it is only eternal peace.