We asked that question in a staff meeting this week, “how are we here?” Praying for each other especially in the liturgy-in-pew and streamed, in the service to the marginalized and disadvantaged through our St. Vincent de Paul Conference, through the care of the sick and those in hospital and trying to bury the dead in as dignified and safe as way as possible in the care of Creation about us. That’s Franciscan parish. I am grateful for all the creative ways we are attending to the needs of those about us.
This Sunday falls on the weekend of U.S. Independence Day. In 1776 a group of individuals declared independence from an oppressive nation and its political authority. They sought freedom from the yokes of slavery and oppression…but other yokes continued to hold them…slavery for the African and their descendants is an example so close to us these days. I saw an engraved sign over one of the at the capitol’s Wes Bolin Plaza, “Freedom is not free.”
“My yoke is easy – my burden is light,” says Jesus in the Gospel of St. Mathew. I wondered as a kid why Jesus was talking about eggs in this part of St. Matthew Gospel. Silly! Not yolk or Joke…. But a piece of normal farm equipment prior to “John Deere tractors. Oxen are big strong farm animals. “Stupid ox” or “BIG OX,” we still hurl as insults to each other. Or even you big “LUG,” trace their roots to this farm language. Usually two of those big beasts harnessed by a substantial wooden beam and leather thongs plowed, harvested and pulled a wagon.
The author of Matthew Gospel uses it to give some insight into what freedom is, the freedom we all honor our national roots on this U.S. July 4th celebration. The “yoke” as the crowds heard it was political, a people yoked by Roman occupation of their nation. Many were yoked by poverty or prejudice… with a very low standard of living. They were even yoked by the Law of Moses. Their religious leaders held the key… and the lock was expensive…VERY FEW QUALIFIED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS! “Come to me!” Mine is easy and light! How can that be?
We are here, “TOUR GUIDES” to the Gospel life of Jesus. In a crowd, tourists or pilgrims need a guide. In a strange place… following someone holding a stick or an Umbrella. “WE ARE WALKING! WE ARE WALKING!” It is safe here. You got the ticket and passport in your pocket. And we are in the journey together. Friends can discover new places and can get home safely – if one follows the guide. This Independence Day our tour guides are those men and women who write freedom with their own lives.
We at St. Mary’s are in the thick of things. We are here! The Covid numbers in Phoenix are asking us to limit opportunities for spreading the virus among our friends and guides. We are pulling back some of the ways we opened up after Memorial Day. In two week intervals, we will watch the numbers and limit the opportunity for interacting with it on site. Pay attention to our web site at smbphx.org. We friars pray the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day to lift in prayer so many needs, especially those of folks already infected and or quarantined locally. Our Book of Intentions in front of Our Lady’s statue in the Basilica is available for all. Some send them in through the website. Bring your own. We are here. Pray them with us. Be well and safe.
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM