19 August 2006

Yoked to Love

St. John Eudes: Ephesians 3.14-19 and Matthew 11.25-30
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

We have two priestly prayers. Two prayers to the Father offered for the benefit of others by Paul the Apostle and Christ our only High Priest. Mediating between God’s people and God Himself, these two priests stand at the limit of their worlds, holding each fully, giving testimony to what will be out of what already is.

Paul, in his ministry as apostle, uses his prayer to draw the Ephesian church into the fullest possible in-dwelling of the Spirit, casting his people confidently and freely into the hands of Christ, calling upon them the sure knowledge of Christ’s love for them and looking well past the immediate moment toward their final end in a love that outshines, extravagantly exceeds mere knowing. They are, and we are, to be filled with the fullness of God!

Christ, in his ministry as Messiah and High Priest, uses his prayer to publicly praise his Father for the unique revelation of His power and mercy to the poor in spirit; speaking over the heads of the wise and learned, the Father opens the veil to show His face to the childlike—He “hands over” to His Son “all things” and Jesus announces that no one may come to know the Father except through the exclusive, the final revelation of His Anointed One, the Christ. And lest this appear to be a onerous condition, an illiberal prerequisite, Christ turns his prayer to the people and eases any anxiety about the weight of his singular Messianic revelation: “…my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Why? B/c he’s done all the heavy lifting in the work of our redemption.

Paul prays that the Ephesians will be given the strength to understand the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love. He prays that, in essence, that their Spirit-gifted understanding may be so complete, so completely absorbing that what is left of the human heart and the human mind is God. God alone. Love alone. Deus caritas est. God is love. This revelation of divine charity, the Father’s love for His children, is made singularly by His Christ, only by the Son, for the ultimate purpose of accomplishing in us our redemption. Along the way, we learn from his teaching and his example what it means to put on Christ’s yoke, to be guided in the rows of righteousness, to be lead into all the possibilities of peace and humility.

These priestly prayers put us squarely before the Father—ready or not!—to be taught the “hidden things.” If we come as the wise and learned to take on the yoke, that is, if we come to the field filled with information, stuffed with worldly wisdom, Christ’s yoke will only feel that much heavier. The childlike, the poor in spirit, come with a docility that radiates a readiness to be taught, an admission of holy ignorance yearning to be cured. (I can witness to the fact that this is not an attitude academics take on easily!) But it is exactly this meekness that imitates the Christ in his acceptance of the Father’s will for his life. Obedience makes his sacrifice on the cross possible and makes it efficacious. An unwilling sacrifice blesses nothing.

Ask yourself: what conditions have you placed on your acceptance of Christ’s yoke? What prerequisites must Jesus fulfill before you assent to his teaching?

What can be lighter than a meek heart yoked to Love?

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