Readings: Is 40:25-31; Psalm 103; Mt 11:28-30
“…my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
When I first heard these words as a child, I asked my dad what a yoke was. I thought it had something to do with eggs. Well, he was a big believer in showing rather than telling, so he opened the family encyclopedia to a picture of a pair of oxen bound together with a yoke and pulling a very large wagon. Now, that yoke didn’t look very easy and that wagon didn’t look very light, so I asked why Jesus would want us to be pulling heavy wagons.
That when my dad gave me my first lesson on metaphors. Hey...I was only seven. And at that age I had yet to learn that for many, life can be very hard, so I just took my dad’s word for it. He was, after all, the smartest person I knew. Now, decades later, I’ve experienced a few of those hardships myself, and have witnessed many more in the lives of others.
I find it especially interesting that the Church selects this Gospel passage from Matthew during Advent, the season when we seem always to be asking God to come to us; because here in Matthew’s Gospel, it’s Jesus who’s doing the calling.
“Come to me,” Jesus calls to us.
“Come to me,” He says to the single mother working two or three jobs just to make ends meet.
“Come to me,” He says to the cancer patient undergoing an exhausting regimen of chemo.
“Come to me,” He says to the prisoner facing years behind bars.
“Come to me,” He says to the unemployed father of three who doesn’t know how he’ll support his family.
“Come to me,” He says to the wife who’s watching Alzheimer’s take her husband of fifty years from her.
Jesus wants to take our yoke, all our burdens, from us. “I’ll handle it,” He says. “Look, you take mine…Oh, and the only way you can do this is by learning from me.”
What are we to learn? The answer's right there in the Gospel passage we just heard: meekness and humility. And once again Jesus is in conflict with the world; for meekness and humility are certainly not prized commodities.
But it’s only when we’re meek, only when we’re humble, that we can allow God to take our burdens from us. Only when we set aside our pride can we, in all humility, accept the gift of His easy yoke, his light burden.
The arrogant and the proud don’t want to accept that gift. They want to hold onto their burdens: “Not so fast, God, those are my burdens You’re trying to take. I can handle them. I don’t need You.” Of course, they can’t handle them, and with grace, they just might come to learn that they do need God.
That’s the key, brothers and sisters; that’s the open secret: No matter how heavy they are, we need only lift all of life's burdens from our shoulders, and in all humility hand them to Jesus.
He’ll replace them with something so light we won’t even feel it.
God doesn’t make things hard for us. He makes things easy. We need only ask.