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Along the Way

Easy yokes and light burdens

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My maternal grandmother came over from a small town in Southern Poland in 1915. Antonette Glowaki was still a teenager when she arrived in Dubois. She came to America to marry a friend of the family, Chester Ryba, who was working in the coal mines. Chester was a widower, having lost his first wife to influenza. So, when they were married, she immediately became mother to three young children. During their marriage she gave birth to three children, so before long she was caring for six children. Two of the children died young. One to disease, the other to an accident while playing in the train yards. Chester died of Black Lung disease before their tenth anniversary of marriage. They were dirt poor and barely got by from one week to the next. When Chester died they went from bad to worse. At least for a few years they were able to survive by the kindness of relatives and some welfare assistance.


Antonette grew from a raw teenager into a strong and confident woman very quickly. She survived, raised four children to adulthood—all of whom were a credit to her—and all the while kept a strong and vital faith. She was a joyous woman.


As I listened to the words of the Gospel this morning. ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light’ I thought about Grandma Ryba. I can’t see how anyone could have borne a heaver load! How can such a yoke be easy or such a burden light?


I don’t know how it was with my mother and uncles but I remember Grandma Ryba during those last few years of her life when she moved in with us. She would help my parents out by watching us, so my mother could go to work. Grandma seemed to enjoy our company. She certainly babied my younger sister and brother. She was getting on in years at the time and not in great health Yet, I never remember her acting as if the care of us children was a burden. Rather, I remember the joy with which she fed us, read to us, comforted and sang to us. What she did came not from a sense of responsibility, even though she was a very responsible person. Rather, what she did came from the depths ofher heart. She loved us.


What can be a burden if it is done from love? A burden is when I think of myself and and feel put upon by the demands of others. Love is when the well-being and joy of another is the cause my joy.


I look at Christ nailed on the cross and think how can such a yoke be easy? How can such a burden be light? Yet, I know also that Christ was on that cross out of love for me...for each of us. Then it dawns on me that Jesus is not promising us an easy life, free of difficulty or suffering. Jesus is promising that if we take upon our shoulders the yoke of love and all that it demands of us, he will be with us. His strength will be our strength. We will not see the yoke of love as a burden, even when it demands everything of us. We will give all freely, joyfully.


In a few moments Jesus will be with us in a unique way. This bread and wine will become his living flesh and blood in every sense, except appearance. We will share in his passion and death. We will share in his great act of love for us through our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Through this miracle of the Eucharist Christ continues to feed, heal, comfort and strengthen us with and because of his divine love for us. Our sharing in the Eucharist draws us into the divine love. Our sharing in the Eucharish is a sign of our willingness to accept the yoke of love upon our shoulders, drawing us out of self-centered concern and orienting us toward the service of others.


When I think back to my grandmother, I see Christ. She became what she celebrated in the Eucharist. She became love. May we all accept the yoke of love. May the face of Christ be visible in each of us.”

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.