My yoke is easy and my burden light. The Priests and Scribes and Pharisees and Elders of Jesus time represented the wisdom of time and the law of the land. It was to these leaders of the temple that the people looked to be faithful followers of God in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and king David. These men over the years had codified laws and rules and prescriptions that were specific and numerous and were controlling of every part of life. These rules and laws went from the washing of hands before eating to worshiping. Lost in all this was the personal nature of God. Jesus today is telling them that the revelation of his Father is hidden from the wise because they are blinded to Jesus. It is through Jesus that they can see and experience the Father. In this way they come to know the father because they know Jesus and only he can reveal and bring the father to them. So, Jesus is revealing to them the true wisdom, and that is his person. He is the way to the father and he is telling those so strongly bound and burdened with so many prescriptions to come to him and rest and give up their burdens. His yoke, his burden is easy in comparison. His call is love and concern for others to live in the person of Christ.
Today, we should remember Christ’s words and remember that wisdom is in his person and actions. Rules and laws are meant to be a service or guideline for order, yet without compassion and mercy and living in the person of Christ are they meeting the test “My yoke is easy and my burden light”? Truly our real rest and peace is in him.
Today’s readings are about food, manna in the desert and Jesus’ flesh and blood as food for us. Our food we call the Eucharist or communion, that is we come together as a community to celebrate Christ’s life and passion and death and resurrection and are fed his body and blood. John tells us today that whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks his blood will have Christ in him and will be able to have eternal life. As manna was meant for the Israelites as a people escaping slavery and without food and a need to reconnect not only with God but also with each other as a community and nation bound together. This need of coming together and acting as a nation is a strong reason why they remained in the desert for forty years as they bonded their lives together and became once again God’s people. So it is for us, that Christ’s body and blood binds us to him not only individually as he comes to us, but also a community that is bound together to look out for each other and to bring Christ’s Word to the world. It is a principle act of the church which brings us together frequently so as to be prepared to live out and proclaim our faith and love to the world. As our body craves and needs food, so does our soul need Christ’s special food which keeps us ready for the journey that we walk together. And so in this special way, Christ is present and comes to us and remains with us as he has remained with the church throughout the ages. His love is ever-present and remains in us.
Today’s first and third readings bring up the idea of Resurrection or rising from the dead. In Ezekiel, we see the “Dry Bones” passage maybe best known from the song “dem bones goin’ to rise again”. Ezekiel is not addressing resurrection directly, but is addressing a people captured and enslaved and dragged off to Babylon. The prophet was reminding the people that God had not abandoned them and would restore them and bring them home. From lost hope, God will give them a new life.
In the Gospel, we see Jesus is in no hurry to run to Lazarus’ side when he hears he is sick. Instead he waits three or four days until he travels to Bethany. At this time, he knows Lazarus is dead, yet he knows what he is about to do. In the middle east, Israel included, it is the custom to bury someone immediately after they die, usually before sundown. Obviously, the climate and the lack of embalming and other means of preparation of the body makes this a bit of a necessity. It was a culture, where family and friends prepared the grave and carried the person out and buried them. The reality of death to them was stark and harsh. Even for us today, death is a hard and stark reality even if we in some ways deal with it in a much different manner. With death there is a finality that all people must confront. As Christians we see it in light of Jesus. In John’s gospel, we have seen Jesus raise a little girl, a widow’s son, and today Lazarus. The little girl had just succumbed, the widow’s son was being carried to his grave, and Lazarus was four days in his grave. Here are three instances of the dead coming back to life. Such a happening had reverberations in Jesus time, but surely raises the question of what is death, what happens after death even today in our time. We know Jesus said we will live forever, but what could this mean. It is not something easily answered or even understood, and only truly know by faith.
Faith tells us God is love, and that love embraces and lifts us all up. As we are joined to him in life through his spirit and his love, that union and joining is one that continues through life, passing us through that passage of death into the love-filled life of eternity. The raising of Lazarus was an important act before Jesus’ own death and resurrection to point out his power over life and death. Our lesson is to see that God’s love is always with us and even in sorrow and loss, he is there. Life as well as love itself continues in some way we will only know when we experience it ourselves.
Over the many years I have served as a priest, one thing that always amazes me is that no one can really look ahead and see what lies ahead for them. I think today’s first and third readings tell us this fairly clearly today. First, we see Samuel sent to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse with a horn of oil to anoint the next King of Israel from among Jesse’s sons. With a sacrificial banquet prepared Jesse presents seven of his sons starting with the oldest. Samuel was drawn to the sons, and even had a favorite, but each of the seven presented were rejected by the Lord as the chosen one. Only when Samuel asked, did Jesse say my youngest is tending the sheep. Yet, the youngest and least of his children was the one chosen and who during his life and for all ages would be remembered. God chose him and remained with him through his good times and even his times of unfaithfulness for the good of Israel. Why David? Only God could say.
Next we come to man born blind in the gospel today. He like the homeless and other victims of our society that we so often pass and really do not see as we busily pursue our lives, even today in our modern times. Unlike his disciples who were quick to equate his blindness to sins of his parents, Jesus paused and said this man was chosen to show Christ as light of the world. Sickness, blindness maladies had nothing to do with sin. The man before him had an intrinsic value, and so it is for every human being in God’s creation. Once again the weak, the person set aside is chosen to be a lesson for God’s kingdom. Again we are reminded, no part of creation is insignificant.
The real lesson for us today, is that God does as he wills. He chooses whom he wants and sometimes confounds us by whom he chooses. It is why his church is a community and in Baptism we all share in the priesthood of his cross and resurrection. His Spirit works through the whole body of the church from the least to the greatest. Yet, in actuality there is really only one Great one, and this is the Body of Christ. This is why we must remain open to the Spirit, open to one another in all things. Christ speaks to all of us in many ways. Whether we be the least or possibly the greatest we need always to be open to the Spirit and hear his Word.