At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
“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.”
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you – for my yoke is easy, and my burden light”
I’ll be honest, I’ve lived my entire life here in the city. I labor as a husband and father, in finance and in ministry. I’ve never really had much need for a yoke. And until I prepared for this homily, I had a very limited knowledge of yokes. By contrast, Jesus knew a great deal about them. It turns out that crafting a yoke was the job of a carpenter, Jesus’ trade.
I learned that yokes are not one size fits all. On the contrary, a carpenter carves a yoke precisely to the measurements of the animal upon which it will be used. If an animal has upon it, an ill-fitting yoke, the animal will experience unnecessary pain and discomfort. Some yokes are heavier than others because of the size and strength of the animal. If a smaller, weaker animal is fastened to a yoke intended for a larger one, the burden placed on the smaller animal might seem too much to bear. Again, being a city boy, I was not well versed on yokes and so this newly found knowledge came of great interest to me. It also shed light on an old saying that I’m sure we’ve all heard – especially in times of great struggle, “God will not burden us with more that we can bear.” Jesus, the craftsman of yokes knows exactly how much we can shoulder.
This all starts with Jesus’ simple three word command, “Come to me.” Moving towards Christ brings with it the understanding that we feel the need or perhaps have a desire to share our life with Jesus. To make him a part of our decisions, our ambitions, our fears. Moving towards Jesus means that we open ourselves to have a relationship with him. We foster that relationship with prayer, we experience Christ through scripture and the sacraments. This is what it looks like when we respond to Christ’s call, “Come to me.”
Moving closer to Jesus and having a relationship with him will not free us from burdens, or struggles, or suffering. It’s really important to grasp this point. We can’t have a Santa Clause view of Jesus Christ. This is to say simply asking Jesus to bring us things like wealth, prosperity, good health, or a life absent from pain or sorrow. Rather sharing our lives with Jesus means that we are not alone when we suffer. That our burden is made lighter because Jesus is holding us up as we struggle. Labor and burdens are not meant to be erased from our lives. Rather, they are meant to be pathways to solid ground, far underneath our troubles where there is grounding, stillness, and ultimately peace.
Accepting Christ’s call and moving closer to him and receiving his yoke means that we are also accepting of living a life as Jesus did. That we live a life of forgiveness, that we welcome the opportunity to be led by compassion. That we discipline our impulses of anger or lust. That we strive for absolute honesty, a love four our enemies, and that we respond to violence or hate with creative and loving nonviolence.
Jesus describes his burden as light because what he is asking us to do is to receive his love and to pass that same love on to everyone else. In truth, offering love to others as freely as Jesus does can be a challenge for some. There are some folks who believe that one’s love must be earned or deserved thus placing conditions or merits to love. But let’s remember that Jesus say’s “Come to me.” Not, “Come to me only if…” or “Only some of you can come to me.” Jesus Christ’s love is always unconditional. We receive it that way and we are to pass it along that way; without condition. And when we think that offering up compassion and mercy, and charity and forgiveness is a burden we cannot manage, that’s when we remember that we are not doing this alone as Jesus is right there with us.