The lightness of sharing

What is it that repels us so when we hear “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest” followed immediately by “Take my yoke upon you?” How, we ask, are we to find rest by adding more to our already overloaded plate?

My Yoke Is Easy

In Chapter II of Louis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice finds herself in a race going, well, quite literally, nowhere. It is a lesson perfectly suited for today’s Gospel.

Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying “Faster! Faster!” but Alice felt she could not go faster, thought she had not breath left to say so.

 The most curious part was: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. Just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.  The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, “You may rest a little now.”  Alice looked round her in great surprise. “Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!”

 “Of course it is,” said the Queen, “what would you have it?” 

 “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” 

 “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Think for a moment of your own life. Busy? Every moment of every day filled with activities, things to do and places to go. Seriously, think about it. How many of us are like Alice; no matter how fast we run or how hard we try, at the end of the day we find ourselves right back where we began that morning and the day before and the day before and the day before and the day before that one.  There is a reason it’s called a rat race, don’t you know. We are literally getting nowhere and wearing ourselves out in the process!

So precisely how does Alice and rat races explain Jesus’ request to take up his yoke? Our inclination, the most immediate thought which crosses our minds is that taking up his yoke will only “add to our burden,” it certainly won’t lighten it. But, is that true or just our own personal bias skewing our thoughts to think that way?

Let us step back and consider what exactly is a yoke. A yoke is a wooden bar which unites two animals enabling them to work together in harmony. Such an apparatus is rarely seen these days but one example which most everyone has seen is the team of Clydesdale horses which pull the large wagon for Budweiser. Harnessed together by a series of yokes and connecting wooden bars, the team can pull that large heavy wagon with little effort. Hitch a single horse to the wagon and that horse’s burden becomes almost unmanageable, the equivalent of running as fast as one can and getting nowhere fast—or slow for that matter.

When Jesus speaks of taking up his yoke, he isn’t asking us to take it up on our own. He isn’t telling us to add his burden to ours. He isn’t urging us to run faster or work harder. Rather, he is offering to help carry our burdens, to lighten our load, to ease our pain and tiredness. He is inviting us to let him share our burdens in harmony with him.

Of course, when we take up his yoke, when we work so closely with Jesus, we will find ourselves restricted in our individual freedom. We may have to change our lifestyle, our thinking or even our focus. In a culture where freedom means free to do anything and everything one desires, this can be stultifying and extremely difficult to accept.

And yes, Jesus knows restrictions can be perceived as an added burden, but, unlike those who labor by themselves and find themselves overburdened, when we share the yoke with Jesus, when we work in tandem with him, the burden is light.

Here is the question each of us must ask and answer—can I accept being so close to Jesus that I am willing to walk in step with him, aligning my every move to his, moving in whatever direction he chooses?

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” I personally have never envisioned Jesus as meek. Humble, yes, but meek, never. Meek just doesn’t fit the man whipping his way through the temple money-changers or calling out the Pharisees as hypocrites. Jesus wasn’t self-effacing, timid, quiet, shy, or passive.

We can find a clue in the first reading, where we read:

See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.

No chariots, no warrior’s bow, along with the horse he will banish them. He will ride a donkey and proclaim peace not war.

Recently, I attended a baseball game. At some point between innings, the announcer asked all who were currently serving and those who had served in the military to stand and be recognized for their service to their country. The word hero was used in acknowledging those who had served.

As a veteran, I found myself reluctant to stand, to be thought of as a hero. I was not alone in how I felt. Some who stood might well have been due that great honor; most however, I believe, stood begrudgingly, not wishing to bring dishonor to those who were truly heroes. We had served not for glory but it was our duty.

If you had asked, most would have insisted they did what anyone else would have done. You will find, among those who have served, most to be meek and humble of heart; reluctant to be recognized for doing what they were merely asked to do. Like so many, when one World War II veteran was called a hero for surviving against impossible odds, he quietly dismissed the praise by saying, “They gave me three medals. What for?

Jesus was no wallflower. But he is the Savior of the world and by any and all measures a bonafide hero. He rightly earned his heroic legend by doing what he was called to do. He suffered and was put to death not by his will but by the will of the One who sent him.

Jesus wants us to lay down our burdens, to give them over to him, to rely on him so we can find rest.

Throughout our lives, most of us have been running alone, carrying burdens because we felt we “had to.” “If I don’t, who will?” “I simply can’t depend on anyone else to get things done.” If we are honest with ourselves, we have all said something similar sometime during our life. Burdens. Often, we are unaware of how many burdens we carry, until, like the proverbial needle that breaks the camel’s back, we collapse from the sheer weight of them all.

Jesus asks each of us to come to him and find rest for he is meek and humble of heart. Come to him and he will ease your burdens, he will bear your pain, he will give you rest, he will bring you peace.

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Lay down your burdens and take on his yoke and his burden—which he assures you are easy and light—and somehow find peace and rest. But… that…is…precisely…how…it…works!

It is only when we are weary enough, frustrated enough, empty enough, that we will hear, truly hear, what Jesus has been saying all along: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

Taking on the yoke of Christ doesn’t remove the pain or the burdens, but it does allow him to share in the carrying and he will lighten the load.


Homily #130
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Zechariah 9:9-10
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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