8th Grade Graduation Mass May 26, 2016 St Austin School
In the Gospel we just heard, from Matthew chapter 11: verses 29 – 30, Jesus says to His disciples, that is, to US: “Take the yoke I give you.”
Take the yoke I give you. What is a yoke? The yellow inside of an egg? No. That’s a different yolk. Is it a Swedish joke? As in “That’s some yoke, boy oh boy!” NO!
Anyone know what a yoke is? A device for putting together a team of oxen or mules for pulling a load, or a piece of wood that goes over your shoulders to carry a pair of buckets. It is a device for work. WORK.
“Take the yoke I give you.” Hmmm. That implies effort. That implies work. Do you like to work?
Work is an important part of being human. It is how we shape our destiny, it is how we express our talents, it is how we support our family and ourselves, it is how we benefit our community. Work gives us dignity and worth, worth beyond whatever we get paid.
Jesus tells us “Take the yoke I give you.” Hmmm. Well, there are different ways of working, different yokes. There is the yoke of selfishness – working only for me, for my benefit. I am in it only for what I can get out of it. I have no concern for anyone else or for the social, or environmental, or communal effects of what I do. It is the ME yoke.
That is NOT the yoke Jesus offers.
There is also the yoke of laziness: I won’t develop my talents, I won’t challenge myself, I will not work hard to excel and do better, but rather I will do the bare minimum, coast along, take it easy, do as little as I need to just in order to just get by. The LAZY yoke.
Guess what? That is NOT the yoke Jesus offers.
Rather Jesus tells you eighth graders as you graduate this evening: “Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me.” What is the yoke Jesus gives you as you leave St. Austin School and prepare for high-school? It is a yoke of learning, of challenging yourself, of growing in awareness, of concern for others, of responsibility beyond your own circle of friends, of becoming your own person, of integrating your Christian faith as your own, not just something you have received from your parents and teachers.
The yoke Jesus offers you is the yoke of service, of care for others, of compassion, of integrity, of respecting your own sexuality and the sexuality of all those around you, of working and longing for justice, of living and loving as a child of God.
Jesus tells you “Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me.” “Learn from me.” Even though you are graduating you are not done with learning. You are really just beginning!
What are you to learn from Jesus? Mathematics? Sociology? Spelling? NO. Rather what you are to learn from Jesus is how to live authentically as a child of God, how to live like God, in honesty, in compassion for others, in service.
Jesus assures us “This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.” Well, …. perhaps Jesus is exaggerating a little teeny bit, perhaps Jesus is stretching the point here. Because in fact His yoke is not always “easy,” and not always “light.”
But in the long run, when all is said and done, when your life is judged for whether it was lived fully and in a worthwhile way or not; When you get to the end of the road of life and you look back at what Jesus’ yoke allowed you to do and what other, alternative ways of life offered you, His yoke is by far the best deal. The fullest and truest life, life truly worth living, Life that is significant and meaningful and genuinely worthwhile, comes from taking on Jesus’ yoke.
“I am gentle and humble,” Jesus tells us, “and you will find rest.” Genuine, satisfied, honest rest with the deep satisfaction of a job well done. That is something to look forward to.
Graduating class of 2016, that is what your teachers, your parents, the priests and parishioners of St. Austin Parish and School wish for you: a full life of integrity and satisfaction as a genuine child of God. Congratulations!