L’Amerique is novelist Thierry Sagnier’s story of a Parisian family’s fight to survive the devastation of World War II. Sagnier’s novel includes this moment:
“They reminisced about the war. Cecile told of farmers she knew, neighbors who kept to themselves and sold produce to the Germans, even as they sheltered a family of seven Jews in a root cellar below their barn. At war’s end, the family was accused of being collaborators but the testimony of the Jews made them heroes instead. The [Jewish] family said they had lived in the cellar for two-and-a-half years and had never missed a meal. They were fed richly, given wine, eggs and fresh vegetables. They also claimed to have heard the farmer’s voice only three times in all those years. When the village mayor sought to decorate him, the farmer refused to be either honored or thanked. He did not change his silent ways and quietly returned to growing artichokes and spinach.”
For the orthodox Jew, religion was a thing of burdens. Jesus said of the Scribes and Pharisees, “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders.”
To the Jewish, religion was a thing of endless rules. The Jewish life was lived “in a forest” of regulations that dictated every action of his life. Religion for them was about “Thou shalt not…”
In contrast Jesus describes His burden as light and His yoke easy. He is reminding us that what is most important about our faith, our religion, is the challenge to be persons of compassion.
The French Farmer and his family took on Christ’s yoke and used their simple gifts to show compassion to the family of seven Jews in World War II.
May we embrace Christ’s spirit of humility and service to others. May we honor and welcome everyone as God’s sons and daughters.