14th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 9, 2017
“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 your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
from Matthew 11:25-30
This wonderful passage is read every year on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart (which was two weeks ago), every three years on Sunday, and usually when a person is given the Anointing of the Sick, often when they are gravely ill. But what does it mean?
Jesus begins his talk by praying to the Father; then he talks to his disciples; finally, he, as it were, looks up from the pages of scripture and addresses all of us directly, all of the overburdened, all the sick and gravely ill, all those frantically seeking meaning in their lives, all those chasing after elusive happiness, elusive wealth, or just trying to stay above water!
The key to this passage is the yoke of Christ. What is this yoke that Jesus promises his followers? Certainly, Jesus means that we must accept his cross. The crosses we are given to carry are the yoke of Christ. We really are not followers of Christ unless we have had a share in the Lord’s cross. Imagine getting to heaven without having carried one of our own for him in this brief life! Sharing our Lord’s cross is our dignity as human beings.
Second, the translation “my yoke is easy” is inaccurate. A better way of saying this is “my yoke is well-fitting.” A yoke of Christ’s time would have been hand fitted to each ox, so that it would not hurt the animal; ideally, it would be just right for the task assigned it. So Jesus is saying that, if we accept HIS yoke, he will make sure that he will give us a task that will fit us. The crosses we fashion for ourselves, in contrast, are often impossible burdens!
Third, a yoke of Christ’s time usually had two openings. Two oxen would pull together. This scripture is often read when a person is given the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Here Jesus means that even if he allows us to carry a burden for him, he will be sharing it with us. The yoke around your neck is the Lord’s cross and he promises to be in the next yoke, pulling right alongside of you, sharing the cross with you, suffering with you, caring about you, loving you.
When we know we are loved or when we truly love someone, we can get through just about anything for their sake. Jesus is appealing to our love for him and telling us how much he in turn loves us. Once we fully realize this, no burden will be too heavy to carry for Jesus, because we know he is pulling right next to us, and will never leave us.