By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB
“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.”
These words we just heard in today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 11:25-30) could not have come at a better time for us than now. They have always been words of comfort and hope for many people in times of stress and anxiety. But in the context of our present situation they come as words of liberation and freedom. They are words of liberation and freedom because our cares and concerns, our suffering and frustration can hold us captive and paralyze us.
Jesus does not promise, to take away the difficulties or solve our problems for us, although miracles do happen. He does not say that he will do the work for us, but that he will share the burden with us and lighten the load for us, by giving us some rest. He says, if we work together, we can get the job done, we can get through the crisis.
In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke (Lk 4:16-20) Jesus went to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth on a sabbath day and he was invited to read the scripture for that day, which was from the Prophet Isaiah. If you remember, what he read was,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
When he had finished, he sat down and preached one of the shortest homilies in Christian history, “‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The mission of Jesus Christ was to announce to the world that the year of God’s favour has come and that the Reign of God has begun. It was a message of liberation and freedom. It was the Good News then and it is Good News now.
The burdens we carry today may be the poverty we feel because we don’t seem to have the resources we need to deal with our personal problems and the ills of our society, our health crisis and the social ills that cause division among us. We are poor because of them.
We may be blind because we can not see how this will all end. And oppressed by anxiety and frustration.
We may be burdened and weary because of the extra effort it takes to keep our lives and society healthy and safe.
Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. But he also says, “… learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart”. And then he invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves to ease our burden and lighten the load.
I remember reading that the yoke that Jesus may have been referring to was not a single yoke for one oxen or beast of burden but a double yoke. It often took two oxen to pull a plow that would till the soil or haul a load of produce. Jesus shares the burden with us, even as he invites us to share his yoke, the cross. In last week’s Gospel (Mt 10:37-42) Jesus challenged us by saying, “…whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find It”.
We are called as disciples of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ to humbly recognize that we need his help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to deal with the burdens that we carry. And that as the Body of Christ we are joined together with him and with each other in carrying out his mission and ministry in the world today. Then, today’s Psalm response can be our song of praise and thanksgiving,
“The Lord is faithful in all his words
and loving in all his deeds.
The Lord supports all who fall
and raises all who are bowed down”.