St. Agatha’s Invites You to “Mass on the Boulevard”
Sunday July 10
Old St. Pat’s Sharing Parish Partner and North Lawndale Pentecost Initiative
Just a Thought…
Every time I read Sunday’s piece from Matthew’s gospel, I think about a seminary classmate, who grew up on a farm in rural Illinois, explaining some of the techniques associated with farming and the agricultural world. When it came to planting, harvesting, or caring for animals, I can vividly remember how the “farming” seminarians used to shake their heads at us “city dwellers” who were totally clueless to the world outside Chicago. It was true. In the short story from Matthew, Jesus uses one of those agricultural images about the yoke and the beast of burden. It was explained to me, by my farming friends, that the yoke was the harness-like device placed over the animal which had the burden of pulling the load or maneuvering the plow. Placing a yoke on an animal meant it was time to share in the heavy lifting, or better yet, the heavy pulling. Doesn’t sound like much fun having a yoke put on your shoulders for some pretty nasty work; not even for animals. Most often the yoke was a double harness, which meant that two animals would be pressed into service for the fierce trudging. With respect to this particular metaphor, spiritual writers suggest that the yoke of Jesus is made easier because He is helping to pull the load. If, at times in life, you feel or you find yourself pulling the burdensome load on your own, the Lord wants you to know that He is with us, wearing the double yoke and attempting to make this torturous journey more bearable.
These past days my heart and my mind have been captured by the life of Annabelle Grace Boehnke. I spoke of her last Sunday. She was born January 7, 2011, and after five courageous months of fighting and enduring surgeries, her battle ended last Wednesday, when Annabelle returned home to the Lord. Although the loss of this child, like any child, is a devastating blow, there was something extraordinarily beautiful about the circumstances surrounding her journey. As I mentioned last week, one of the things I witnessed on the night of her passing was an incredible expression of love and compassion from the medical staff at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. These heroes in health care journeyed with this beautiful baby and her parents every step of the way. They fought the adversities of infection and physical challenge. And though I have been in similar situations before, on the night she passed I saw something I had not seen. I witnessed nurses, doctors, housekeepers, respiratory therapists, and many others who came from their homes at midnight and beyond to be with Annabelle and her young parents, Mike and Karla. Most of them were not “on the clock,” and yet when they found out of this baby’s passing, they came to the NICU to be with her. When she died, her body was gently and sacredly passed from one person to another, just to hold and comfort. It was a most unusual, yet profoundly sacred moment.
I think this is what it means to put on the yoke. When, in the midst of life’s most challenging experiences, especially in the face of a child who is sick and tragically dies, people of great love and devotion come together. This is the work of God, who gives us the strength to help shoulder the incredible burdens of our lives. This past week I was privileged to see people for whom their work was not just their work, but their vocational call to something sacred.
We give thanks to God this day for those heroes in our lives who have taken upon themselves the yoke that we have found difficult to harness. They have carried the load with us and they’ve made it easier.
On this 4th of July weekend, to all those who put on uniforms and have placed themselves in harm’s way, we pray a prayer of gratitude for you.
A blessed summer to you,
Fr. Tom Hurley