Today’s brief Gospel – whose text we have heard twice at Mass in the past month or so – gives us a very encouraging message. Jesus promises that if we turn to Him, we will find rest, for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Because Jesus is God, eternal and unchanging, we know that these words are as true today as they were two thousand years ago – as well as they were before, at the time of Moses.
But the first reading and today’s memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha invite us to go deeper into the meaning of the Lord’s words. Moses followed God’s guidance and for the most part was very faithful, and God asked him to face down the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead the people of Israel – who were anything but easy to govern – through the desert for forty years. Blessed Kateri was left orphaned and deformed by smallpox when she was a small child, was persecuted because of her Christianity and her virginal consecration to God, had to flee her own community in order to pursue her vocation, and died young from illness.
And we don’t have to go to historical figures to see how following Christ can entail difficulties. Living and defending Catholic principles in today’s world opens us up to ridicule, disdain and even some forms of legal penalties. Some medical procedures and lifestyles that our society offers us as possible means to better health and happiness are prohibited by our faith. We might be tempted to say, “Lord, what do You mean Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light? What do You mean by rest? I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean…”
I suspect that our Lord’s answer would go something like this: “Yes, you will face difficulties, just like I did when I was rejected and crucified to redeem you from your sins. But because I suffered for your salvation, and you are joined to Me in baptism, your suffering also has value. I went before you, and will stay with you always. Your struggles, like mine, will end in resurrection and joy. A difficult but meaningful life full of faith, hope and love, is far easier than a life of worldly success haunted by emptiness and despair. Your heart can truly be at rest when you know that what matters to Me is not so much success, as humility, contrition and gratitude. You do your best, and I will do the rest.”