Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
I often wonder how the lectionary readings for a given day are related to one another and who matched them up. Fortunately, today’s gospel from Matthew, the psalm and the passage from Isaiah work together to tell us a compelling story about what it means to be a Christian. Jesus knew that the numerous political and religious codes and requirements heavily burdened the people of his time and they often failed sometimes with dire consequences. He also knows that we feel the terrible weight of the many problems confronting our world today. We’re beset by multiple and competing obligations not to mention a whole host of personal problems that require attention.
How odd it is then that Jesus acknowledges people’s burdens by asking them to pick up another yoke, yet another burden! It seems the last thing anyone wanted or needed was one more thing to do. Jesus’ invitation only makes sense if we understand how yokes work. Yokes are designed to share the workload among two or more animals thereby reducing the weight carried by each individual. It is also the case that the oxen do not have to be of equal size or strength, especially during their training period. The experienced ox will carry much more of the load while a new ox learns how to work in tandem with its stronger partner. The message is that Jesus’ yoke is light because He will carry the heavy load and never overwhelm us with more difficulty than we can handle as long as we prayerfully maintain our relationship to Him. As Isaiah notes, “He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.”
A second point worth considering is what Jesus’ yoke requires. It is not mindless adherence to a set of rules and regulations important as they may be in developing well-formed consciences. Jesus’ yoke consists in nurturing loving relationship, seeing with compassionate eyes, and opening our hearts and hands in generosity. It is about Matthew 25, the Sermon on the Mount (and Plain), and following the golden rule.
Of course we will fail sometimes. Jesus does not expect perfection as Psalm 103 points out, “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” That is, He loves us unconditionally. What matters most is acknowledging the yoke Jesus invites us to share and picking it up day after day in faithful love and service to God and our sisters and brothers.
– Juli Corrigan
Many people struggle with depression and anxiety during the holiday season. Find someone who has lost a loved one, who is struggling with a difficult life decision, whose pain is spilling over. Offer to share their yoke and walk with them patiently and compassionately. Jesus wept. We should too.