My Yoke is Easy, My Burden Light

People have become aware generally of my decision to return to Catholicism. I can say all have been supportive, or at least quiet. That is not to say all understand, and, well I understand that. I’m not sure I understand it well myself.

When I mentioned to my husband, known at A Feather Adrift, as the Contrarian, he started to speak, and then said, “never mind.” I encouraged him to continue, and when he wouldn’t I surmised his response:

“You were going to say, why not keep quiet, for in six months you may change you mind, . . .again. Is that about right?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

Another friend wished me well most sincerely but suggested she too didn’t understand.

What follows is my best attempt to explain, and well, as I said, understand myself.

I’ve been reading a lot of Tillich lately. He has a couple of books that are really collections of his sermons given in the late 40’s. Surprisingly, they speak as effectively today as then.

I read something in one that caught me. I cannot find it after spending some minutes searching, and think that it was more of an impression, one I created from a number of thoughts of his. Credit where credit is due, but I don’t want to blame  him either.

He was speaking I recall about religion and how it gets in the way of the message, and that that is what Jesus means about his yoke being easy and his burden light. He meant it in regards to a comparison of the onerous burden of the Law. No one could be obedient to the Law fully. It was an impossibility, but Jesus saw that it, as practiced in Second Temple Judea, was particularly so for the poor.

All the purity laws, all the rules, all were impossible for the average peasant to comply with. He was always “unclean” and rejected, although his Temple tax was always accepted.

From that, one might conclude that onerous religious ritual and dogma might be held in similar disdain, obscuring the “Way” as Jesus taught.

Leave it to me, to see something quite different. Again, I think it had something to do with something else Tillich said, about faith. In essence, when it became easy, then we were in trouble. We become complacent, sure we are right, no longer studying, no longer meditating, no longer moving on the path. We think in our arrogance that we have reached the end of the road. We are there.

I conflate the two, and find that when religion is easy for me, I become complacent. I start to become arrogant and sure of what is truth. And that is simply wrong. Augustine is a dear favorite of mine, mostly because he prayed to have his “concupiscence taken from him, but not quite yet.” I liked that bit of honesty, that humanness.

Anyway, Augustine is quoted generally as saying something along the lines of “whatever we think we have learned about God only adds to what we don’t know,” or words to that effect. I believe it. The more I learn, the more I suspect I’m wrong in other words, yet I also suspect I might be more right than some others. Meaning I guess that I increase in knowledge in minuscule amounts, ninety percent of “new learning” is probably wrong.

To be in a church that agrees with me, or gives me total license (more or less) to construct my own theology, allows me to do that and dust off my hands at my  creation, my God. My idol, the thing I worship as work of my own hands.

The Roman Catholic Church on the other hand, keeps me in severe tension. We are in some holy disagreements on a host of things. But, in humility, I know that I must learn as best I can the full force and reasoning of the Church, and then I must carefully examine all other evidence. Only then do I have a right to disagree. If my heart leads me against Mother Church on any issue, I remain in that tension, always seeking.

And in seeking, comes that minute new kernel of knowing I believe. And so the tension, for me, is essential. I am, without it, too prone to rest on my laurels.

In saying this, I want to make it most clear that others, who are happily ensconced with the Episcopal Church, or any other for that matter, are not wrong. That would be arrogant indeed. I mean quite something else.

I believe that we are utterly unique in our personal connection with God. We are meant to be, as I see it. God has created a perfectly perfect, yet supremely special one-of-a-kind way of union for each of us. And thus, it means that each path is unique.

Each of us is a different pattern of genes, personality, and life experiences. We, each of us, then, as I see it, must negotiate the world in a way different from each other.

My inability to stay honorably focused on truth without the crutch of “tension” need not, and no doubt is not everyone else’s. It is mine. I say no more.

If as Augustine suggests, I’m more wrong than right, well, I can but hope that some kernel of  new truth has emerged for me. And that kernel has led me to this place and time, and this decision.

Or as my husband suggests, six months from now? But for now, I feel content and at peace. That seems good enough now.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John Anngeister
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 19:27:50

    Hi Sherry, glad I found you new blog.

    Let me just say that I think you found a dandy picture of a yoke for this post (i.e. one that plainly has two collars) because it is best suited, in my opinion for showing what Jesus was talking about when he said, “my yoke is easy.”

    Because a yoke is not something which is princicpally designed to put us under the control of a driver (that’s a harness) but rather a yoke is something that binds us to a fellow ‘beast of burden’ to make the job easier – which fellow-worker is Jesus himself, as he means to reveal to us through his incarnation – our ‘yoke-fellow’ rather than our ‘driver.’

    Keep it coming,
    and Best wishes to your fresh association

    Reply

  2. Meg
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 23:15:55

    I do understand what you mean about neding the tension. I find I am the same, in that I need to be in church, even with the holy disagreements. My church is Wesleyan rather than Catholic.

    I note one of your statements: “In saying this, I want to make it most clear that others, who are happily ensconced with the Episcopal Church, or any other for that matter, are wrong. That would be arrogant indeed. I mean quite something else.”

    I think, perhaps you missed a word or two here, as I am sure you didn’t intend to say others are wrong?

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Sep 20, 2010 @ 12:34:14

      Wow, thanks for telling me Meg. It’s very nice to know I’m not completely bonkers!

      And thanks so much for catching the typo. You are exactly right, and I have corrected it.

      Reply

  3. Jan
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 14:40:39

    Sherry, somehow I had not realized that you’d returned to the Catholic Church. Yes, I knew you’d been happy with and had left the Episcopal. The liturgy and reverence in the Catholic Church draws me, but I also find that in my Episcopal Church. The patriarchy would drive me crazy though! Tension is what we find in any tradition. It’s like how a friend of mine always prays to be “uncomfortable,” as she says this is when she grows in Godliness. Maybe that’s what the tension is for. I believe God is drawing us wherever we are, in church or not, but I find more awareness when I am attending a church. I’m glad you’re posting about this, and I’ll have to keep checking here. Glad you mentioned it on your other blog; I forget too easily to know what’s going on!

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Sep 21, 2010 @ 15:26:33

      Jan, it is so true that I loved the Episcopal Church. The people I met there were truly the best of Christians and I am so much a better person for having attended. I cannot explain well at all why I feel drawn back to the Roman church, with all its flaws and stubborn resistance to what I conceive of as obvious truth. But in seeing that it doesn’t, it forces me in a real way to confront it again, study it more deeply, and make even a better argument. I do not take dissent lightly in the Church. Somehow, hopefully, we all find our way.

      Reply

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