The simplest truths are, sometimes, the deepest truths. Because such truths seem so simple and too familiar, sometimes, we take them for granted.
In today’s Gospel Reading, we have such truths, with Jesus saying: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
Let us step back and look at that.
Is Jesus calling on those who are carrying heavy loads to come and add a yoke to their burden? Doesn’t that sound like adding affliction to the afflicted? No; Jesus is asking us to cast away our burdens and take on his yoke. This is because, unlike the burdens we bear, his yoke is easy and his burden light.
Laboring under many burdens we are here today to Mass and we’ve just heard Jesus say to us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.” How could anyone not be attracted to what Jesus offers us? Why is He so ignored by so many?
For some, the Christian message has been so distorted that they no longer take it seriously. Some preachers have claimed that faith in Christ removes all desire for sin.
Others have preached a message that faith in Jesus Christ removes all doubt and fear in one’s life.
Still others tell us that with Christ you’ll have such a feeling of acceptance that you’ll never ever feel lonely again.
Others will tell you that if you are with Christ everything you touch will make you prosper you will be stressful, healthy, etc. So called- Prosperity Gospel. Yes it is a prosperity Gospel, but not Jesus’ Gospel. Not true Gospel or real Gospel!
And, we’ve been told that if you believe in Jesus Christ your children will grow up good, you’ll get promotions where you work, and that your illnesses and sicknesses will be minor.
The Christian faith is not magic. Christ’s life was not painless and totally free of burdens. Quite the contrary! But what He does offer you is His invitation to be yoked with Him, to pull your burdens and tasks through life with Him, sharing His yoke, drawing on His strength, and letting Him help you while you help Him accomplish His tasks.
Christ doesn’t do things for you; He does things with you.
The Jews among whom Jesus lived were suffering a lot. Life imposed heavy and painful burdens upon them. Their religious leaders imposed even more, presenting them with an impossible set of laws, rules and regulations that could never be met while at the same time presenting them with an angry and vengeful God who could seemingly never be satisfied.
Jesus, a Jew, had burdens, many burdens. But His religion was never a burden. It was a support; it carried Him; His relationship with His Father empowered Him, filling Him with God’s Holy Spirit. He knew that His Father was a gentle, caring, and generous Father who loved with a love infinitely greater than any human love.
I don’t know what your image of God is, and I don’t know how you feel about God, but I do know that you need to be yoked with Jesus in accomplishing God’s work and in carrying out your tasks. Jesus will give you His wise and loving Father along with His strong and understanding Mother. He wants to be yoked with you.
For those of us who are weighed down with shame and guilt, well… few of us have heavier loads to carry. Jesus’ mission in life was a mission of forgiveness. Are you yoked with Christ in that task? Christ never met anyone whose sins were so great that they couldn’t be forgiven. The only thing Jesus could not forgive was an unforgiving spirit… or a spirit that simply doesn’t care.
It is often said that Jesus’ love for us was unconditional. Well, yes…. but not quite. He did attach one supreme condition on His love for us, namely that in order to receive His forgiveness and be relieved of our burden we have to forgive others. We receive forgiveness and we have burdens taken off of our backs as we forgive and remove burdens from others. Carrying unforgiving resentments burdens you, not the ones you resent.
The yoke of Christ can be understood in yet another way. In the olden times, among the Jews, the yoke was put on two cattle’s necks; this allowed them to pull the plow together as one. It always takes a pair to work a yoke. When Jesus asks that we take on His yoke, we might as well each ask: who is my yoke-mate? Your yoke-mate as well as mine is none other than Jesus Himself. In fact, He owns the yoke. He only invites you and me to team up with Him. This explains why Christ’s yoke is not just a yoke from Christ, but also, a yoke with Him. To take Christ’s yoke is to identify and associate with Him. This explains why our values, mission, or vision have to agree with His. It is important to know that we are neither pulling the yoke alone nor by our power, but rather together with Christ and by the strength that comes from Him. It is equally important to know that Jesus is not asking us to do what He cannot, or will not, assist us in achieving.
We end this homily with this familiar story about a man who had a dream. In that dream, this man was walking along a sandy beach with Jesus; and, they were replaying all the important moments of his (the dreamer’s) life. The man noticed that, for each scene, there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to Jesus. But he also noticed that when he came to the most difficult and trying moments of his life, there were only one set of footprints to be seen. The man could not understand this; so, he asked Jesus: “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. Why is it then that during the most difficult periods of my life—when I needed you the most—you would leave me?” Jesus replied. “My child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the most difficult moments of your life, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times I carried you.”
We should always remember that it is in God we live, move, and have our being since we have decided to come to, and follow, Jesus. We are yoked to Christ. This way, we may never be weary nor be over-burdened. We can start each day with a prayer like this: “Lord, replace my burdens with your yoke, in Jesus’ name”.
If we take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves we will find our own burdens to be much lighter. For all of us are carrying some heavy loads, the worst of which are our feelings about ourselves and about our relationships with others, particularly those closest around us. Life is, after all, essentially hard, because relationships are hard.
But Jesus offers you something that can make life essentially beautiful for you and for me. “Come to me,” He cries, “all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”