From the Tee Box

A Blog by Father Trey Nelson

THE INTIMIDATION FACTOR...

Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot: Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“The crowds were amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘He drives out demons by the prince of demons.’ (From Matthew 9:32-38)

It seems that all those who met Jesus and witnessed his works found him to be a curious character, to say the least. There was a significant difference, however, between various groups. The Pharisees, unlike others, were simply not open to him. They were curious about him, for sure, but they were also envious and, most of all, they were intimidated by him and afraid of him. Many, if not all of them, never seemed to be able to get beyond this.

I doubt if any of us finds Jesus Christ to be intimidating, but we are probably aware that to submit ourselves to him, to his grace and mercy, requires making ourselves vulnerable. And this can be scary. Even though we know that he can take us to a better place, we are sometimes, perhaps, reluctant to go there. Again, it’s not because we are afraid of him or intimidated by him. It’s often because change can be frightening, especially if it requires letting go of something that we’re use to and making ourselves more vulnerable to God’s redemptive power.

Ask yourself one simple question today: is Christ inviting you to go in a direction that you are reluctant to go? Forgiveness and letting go of bitterness. Changing a bad behavior. Being healthier. Returning to church, to the sacraments.  Putting off that one thing that could get you to a better place.  And, if you are reluctant, ask yourself why.

MY DESIRE TO PLEASE YOU...

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“…Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, ‘Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.’ And from that hour the woman was cured.…” (From Matthew 9:18-26)

Today’s Gospel scene presents us with 2 miracles. An official’s daughter is healed, as is a woman who had been “suffering hemorrhages for twelve years.” In all, this is a relatively short passage. This should not, however, cause us to miss the significance of what happens. The miracle beneath the miracle, as some call it, is the faith of the 2 main characters. They knew that it was Jesus to whom they needed to go for healing. Beneath their pain there was the gift of desire. Along with trust, this led them to a new place, a better place.

One of the life lessons that I recall being imparted to me during high school was the simple, “no one can make you want anything” reality. Coaches, teachers, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart all said this to us many times. I even recall my father saying to me, “son, you’ve got to want it.” A beautiful reminder of this is contained in Preface IV for Weekday Mass, which reads, “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”Thomas Merton also writes, in Thoughts in Solitude, “…I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you…” He then concludes with, “and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing…” Perhaps we can make this our prayer today, that our desire to be bound more closely with Christ grow stronger each day.

HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JULY 9...

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (From Matthew 11:25-30)

What unnecessary burden might you be carrying?

When I was younger, before I was in the seminary studying to become a priest, I had been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation–Confession–for a while. It’s just where I was at that time in my life. When I finally returned I was in my second or third year of college. I went to a mild-mannered, soft-spoken priest in Texas, where I was in school. He was gentle, kind, and very direct. He was just what I needed at the time. After I shared with him what I needed to share, the first thing he said to me was, “this is a burden that you’ve been carrying for way too long. God no longer wants you to carry it.”When I walked out of his office that day, I knew 2 things: I knew that I had experienced genuine relief and peace. I also knew that, with that release from my burden, there came a responsibility. What was I going to do with what I had been given? Within the context of today’s Gospel reading, I had been invited to lay down one burden (or “yoke”) and take up another. I was being asked to lay down the burden that constrained me and weighed me down and take up the yoke of Christ.

The “yoke” of Jesus is not a burden. It does not weigh us down. It lifts us up and gives us strength, courage, and confidence. His “yoke” is His Word and His way. It is our anchor, our only sure thing in this life. Too often in life we take up and carry yokes that are not life giving. We attach ourselves to something or someone and let them take us over. These types of yokes can bring us down emotionally, spiritually, and, in some cases, even physically. Sometimes there may be an emotional or mental hindrance involved, but most of the time, more than likely, we freely choose to “yoke ourselves to” things that drain the life right out of us. So, if we want to, we can consider a few basic questions; like: what unnecessary burden might you be carrying right now? Today?What are you “yoked” to? From what burden or yoke do you need rest?

Bitterness and hardness of heart...

Resting in anger and resentment, rather than forgiveness...

An unhealthy behavior, with which we may need help...

Are we “yoked to”: our work, our money, our things...

Something that we need to let go of in order to have peace...

I heard a priest say on a retreat one year, that, “many people want the rest but not the yoke.” Letting go of what weighs us down does offer us rest and peace. But with it there does come a responsibility. It’s not a mandate. It’s not a directive. It is simply an invitation offered to us by Christ. He is asking us to come to him, to lay down our burden, and to freely take up his. The way to find rest and comfort is to lose our burden at the cross and allow Christ to put his burden and yoke upon us instead. Freedom is not found in avoiding or discarding the yoke of Christ; it's found in losing our own.