The Law says, if you remember, that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave-girl, and one by his free-born wife. The child of the slave-girl was born in the ordinary way; the child of the free woman was born as the result of a promise. This can be regarded as an allegory: the women stand for the two covenants. The first who comes from Mount Sinai, and whose children are slaves, is Hagar – The Jerusalem above, however, is free and is our mother, since scripture says: Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children! Break into shouts of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour. For there are more sons of the forsaken one than sons of the wedded wife. So, my brothers, we are the children, not of the slave-girl, but of the free-born wife.
When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
The yoke of slavery is a curious one. It comes under the guise of various distractions and addictions. The notion of what makes us slaves is often coloured by the impression of being chained and forced into hard labour. Yet in our daily lives, there are so many ways in which one can unwittingly become a slave without awareness.
One of these is the slavery to approval from others. An inordinate and constant seeking of approval can sometimes be an addictive drug that masks the deeper longing of a soul for real love. No one is completely free from the desire to be approved of, regarded well, and favoured. However, if this need overshadows a healthy understanding of our own worth and perception of our intrinsic loveliness, it is crucial to hang back and sit with Jesus on this thorn in our flesh.
I recall one recent evening, I attended Mass seeking solace for a stone weighing on my heart. A part of my heart was nursing a disappointment of some friends and wondering if I was cherished as much as I had hoped, and as much as I treasured them. I experienced that familiar feeling of being ‘not good enough.’ My head told me that I am according some incident too much significance and I sensed that I could be over-thinking it, yet my heart was still hung up on the feeling of hurt. I often say, “my heart hasn’t yet caught up with my head.” In the midst of this seemingly trivial turmoil, I knelt and gazed at our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up my need for approval and struggles in placating my anxiety.
What happened next struck me deeply.
In the exposed Eucharistic Host, I saw Jesus’ steady gaze at me and a compassionate revelation.
“My child, I love you and I affirm you. I long for your return in love. Is this not enough for you?”
At that point, I had a glimpsed of Jesus’ downcast eyes and his feelings of unrequited love. I thought of the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed alone and scared: “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). I thought of Peter’s fear and denial of knowing Jesus; who slipped away from association leaving Jesus to face condemnation alone. I thought of the wretched thief who mocked Jesus while beside him on the cross, and challenged him to save them all.
And I saw myself: very human and too caught up with being favoured by those around me, to realise the love that Jesus offers me is not conditional on my likeability or my congeniality. He sees me – whether in my imperfections and uncertainty or joy and confidence – and still he loves the woman he beholds. As I considered my unrequited feelings, I could feel the heartbeat of our Lord for me when I turn away from him.
It was a mysterious yoke of connection with Jesus. Not a yoke of slavery, but a yoke that completely freed me from the weight of worldly trappings. I am infinitely loved by the God who formed me. And Jesus on the cross is testament. His ever-present love is my reality. Is this enough for you too?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
When I look into Your holiness, when I gaze into Your loveliness.
When I’ve found the joy of reaching Your heart, when my will becomes enthralled in Your love.
When all things that surround become shadows in the light of You.
I worship You Jesus, the reason I live, is to worship You.
Thanksgiving: Let us spend an hour with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to keep watch with him and allow His love to envelope our will.