MY YOKE IS SWEET AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared relatively late in the Church's calendar. The proper object of this celebration is the love of Jesus for each of us as symbolized in his heart of flesh. The essence of the mystery which it celebrates is the merciful love of Christ, a love he offers to all who come to him with faith and the willingness to obey his teaching. That he loves us in this way was revealed already in the lifetime of Jesus. But it required many centuries before this revelation of divine love for sinners was associated with the heart of our Lord and made the object of a special veneration in the liturgy and in various devotions that have had a wide and continuing appeal to devoted faithful.

We have his own word for the fact that our Lord's love for us is a sweet yoke and a light burden. In our better moments, especially when we succeed in putting into practice some particular act requiring self-denial in the interest of service to another or in resisting temptation against God's law, we experience the joy that does indeed make the yoke sweet. But we do not have to live too long before we find that fidelity to God can weigh heavily upon us. At times it seems impossible to practice forgiveness from the heart, especially when we feel betrayed by one we have trusted. The burden can feel very heavy when we are subjected day after day to petty annoyances, insensitivity, lack of appreciation. It requires no great exercise of imagination to draw up a lengthy list of situations in which we feel anything but the lightness and sweetness of love as we strive to implement the Lord's commandments.

We must not give up on ourselves. On the contrary, when Jesus spoke these words he prefaced them with an invitation precisely to those who experience the weight of oppression and the burdensome trials of life, including the ingratitude of people for whom we have sacrificed our self. Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. He does not say he will remove the burden or free us from labor; rather he promises a rest and a sweetness that can be known only by transcending the sufferings and anxieties and trials that we meet with day by day. We must come to terms with them, and while absorbing their impact pass beyond a mind-set that ties us down to the limited horizons of our immediate surroundings. The love of Christ beckons us to take this step into a higher and nobler world where his love gives meaning to our struggles and sufferings. Fidelity to his promise and perseverance in our search is the way to discover the truth of his words. If we suffer with him then we shall also rise with him. Unless we remain faithful in times of stress and trial, we shall be unable to taste and see that the Lord is good to us.

Christ The Lifegiver

Today as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Fr. Robert Moore's priestly ordination, we discern in his witness a sign of perseverance and fidelity. We are not here to chronicle the events by which his faithfulness was tested over those many years. They remain hidden in the heart, unspoken for the most part, but known to God and recorded in the Book of Life. The many years in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya as a missionary pastor, followed by service as chaplain at a University in Ethiopia could hardly pass without inner and outer testings. Whatever the burdens he carried and disquiet that he knew, they could not extinguish the freshness of a love that emanated from the heart of Christ. Discovering that love in the midst of a very demanding and active mission made the burdens light and kept his spirit young so that he continued to seek new horizons even into advanced years. This search continues in the Abbey here. The monastery does not restrict the vision of the heart, but broadens and sharpens it, provided we focus our gaze on the Lord Jesus who offers his love to us day by day.

As we offer the Eucharist here this morning, may the grace of that love be multiplied within each of us. May it ever burn in our heart and continue to lead each of us, along with Fr. Robert, on to the end of the great journey of life. May each of us here at this celebration, by lives of fidelity and holiness discover for himself and herself the truth of Jesus' promise extended to us and all those who come to him in the midst of life's trials and burdens so that we learn by experience and in all truth that his yoke is sweet and his burden is light.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

[abbey crest]

Abbey of the Genesee

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