July 9, 2023; Mt 11:25-30; 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel it might seem that Jesus is talking nonsense. He says, “My Yoke is easy, and my burden light.” A yoke is a heavy wooden collar that farmers placed around the necks of their oxen to pull the plow. So how could placing a yoke around our necks be easy? A burden is something that weighs us down, makes it difficult to walk, and in time causes pain. So how could a burden be light? It is clear that Jesus is trying to tell us something in about burdens, suffering, and difficulties. But what is it that he is trying to say?
To understand him, we must be careful not to overlook the most important word in his saying: the word, “my.” Jesus does not say that our yokes will be easy and our burdens will be light. He says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” What he is trying to tell us is that if we take our yoke or burden and give it to him so that it becomes his yoke or burden, not only will be find the strength to carry it, but he will use it somehow to bless us.
We may have fallen deeply in love with another person who becomes the center of our life. We may have dated that person for months, even years, and we hope that the relationship will end in marriage. And then one day the person walks away. The yoke of rejection and loss presses down heavily upon us. We cannot bear it. We cannot carry it. It is then that the gospel reminds us that we should make our yoke Jesus’ yoke. That we should give to him the things we cannot control or change. As often as the sadness of that loss returns to us, we should give it to him again. If Jesus helps us carry our yoke, there is a way to the future. It may even cause us to grow and mature in a way that prepares us for a new relationship.
You may have responsibility for an aging parent, a difficult parent who will not admit that he or she cannot do what was once possible. That responsibility is a burden that weighs you down and steals your joy. The gospel today encourages you to give that burden to Jesus as his burden. To unload your anger and your frustration on him because he understands what your parent does not. If Jesus is helping you carry your burden, you can find the strength for another day and in time find pride for loving someone who was difficult to love.
As we move into our seventies and eighties, age takes away both physical and mental abilities. The things that we loved to do we can do no longer. We have to say goodbye to the people in our family and friends who die before us. It is easy for us to become fearful of our future. What will happen to us? How will our lives end? Today’s gospel invites us to take that fear and give it to Jesus. To place our future in his hands. Because if we do that, we may be able to enjoy the blessings we have today and be thankful for whatever days God gives us.
If we try to carry our yokes and our burdens alone they can paralyze us. That is why the gospel asks us to give to Jesus the things we cannot change or control. And when he tells us that his yoke is easy and light, it does not mean that all of our suffering will magically disappear. But it is a promise that that which once looked impossible can become something we can bear, and that which we thought would crush us can become the way to life.