It is true that the Revised Common Lectionary has, by way of Matthew’s Gospel, yoked us to an uneasy set of lessons for Sunday. It is also true that the though Jesus assures us that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light,” follow him really takes some work. Hard work. I’m often reminded of the cost of discipleship in my day-to-day life as a priest in the Church. I’m keenly aware of the things my family and I have given up to follow the Lord. I see and hear from people all the time who are seeking after the Kingdom knowing full well that life would at least seem easier if all they had to care about was their own well being. It was Sunday’s Collect, however, that brought the difficulty of discipleship into sharp focus.
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preachers often try to make the Great Commandments sound a whole lot easier than they are, but the reality is that loving God and loving neighbor are downright impossible. Day after day, we seek after our own gain. Day after day, we find new ways to strain relationships. Day after day, we know the right thing to do and don’t do it. As the Psalmist says, “my sin is ever before me.” The yoke of following Jesus isn’t necessarily easy, but the good news is that we have someone to share the load.
The Collect for Sunday goes on to ask for help by way of the promised Advocate who will walk with us in Jesus’ absence. With the help of the Holy Spirit, which is a free gift of grace by faith in Jesus Christ, we are able to bear the burden of the yoke of discipleship. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it becomes possible to have our hearts, our whole heart, devoted to the Kingdom. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it becomes possible to have pure affection for our neighbor, even and especially the one who really gets under your skin. The yoke of Christ isn’t easy. In fact, it is impossible to carry on our own. However, the promise of Jesus is sure, his yoke is made easy by God’s gracefilled gift of the Holy Spirit.