5  JULY 2020: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by FR. Emmanuel, our pastor

The image of the yoke  – Yoke with Christ”

My dear brothers and sisters,  Good Evening!

Today’s Gospel image, the image of the yoke, may look strange for all of us, either because we are not involved in agriculture or even if involved we make use of modern machinery like tractors to prepare the land.  But to everyone who listened to Jesus this image of the yoke was one taken from their day to day life.  They were farmers who used oxen, or other animals kept under a yoke to plough the field.  They knew very well how important it was to have a suitable yoke for their oxen so that the oxen may work properly.  In Palestine, yokes were made of wood and sometimes they were custom made to fit the type and size of the neck of the oxen.  Somewhere in a tradition it says that St. Joseph, the carpenter, was famous in making very fitting yokes and many came to buy the yokes from Joseph, the carpenter.  Might be that Jesus helped his foster father Joseph to make these yokes and guided the people to select the yokes.  This might sound as a story but today’s Gospel tells us that God prepares the best yoke that fits each one of us.

In the first reading, prophet Zechariah consoles the Jews living in Palestine under the “yoke” of the Greek rule promising them a “meek” messianic king of peace riding on a donkey, who will give them their long-awaited rest, peace, liberty and prosperity which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

In the second reading Paul tells the first-century Roman Christian community about two yokes, namely, the yoke of the “flesh” and the yoke of the “Spirit” and challenges Christians to reject the heavy and fatal yoke of the flesh and accept the light yoke of the Spirit of Jesus. We’re called to be yoked to the Spirit, to let the Spirit dwell in us, sanctifying us not by our works but by the undeserved grace of God. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus offers us peace, rest and refreshment.  “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.”  What a great comfort these promises are. There is a place to go to when death or loss or suffering descend upon us.

Jesus said his yoke was easy.  And yet he went through torture and death. How can this be? Maybe labor and burdens are not meant to be erased from our lives, but instead are meant to be pathways to solid ground far underneath our troubles, into a quiet grounding that is real stillness and rest.  Maybe the only real goods in life are those rooted firmly in the love and approval that is God and the meekness and humility that are Jesus’ life.  If you can begin to let go into the arms of the Great Love, if you can give your life away instead of raging, you will know rest from your burdens.  Take your troubles and hand them gratefully to the One who can give you rest.

Sometimes we feel that our burdens are too heavy – loss of job, illness, pandemic, death of dear ones, …  Heavy burdens—either in daily life or in discipleship—are not what God desires for us.  Life will burden us, yes. But we do not carry these burdens alone.   A yoke is fashioned for a pair — for a team working together.  When Jesus asks you to take the yoke, you might as well ask who is your yoke-mate.  Your yoke-mate is none other than Jesus himself.  The yoke, in fact, belongs to him and he only invites you and me to team up with him.  The yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. What a beautiful image it is that I am yoked with Christ, Me walking, doing everything, suffering and even dying with Christ under the same yoke.  By saying that his “yoke is light” Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.  To take the yoke of Christ is to associate and identify ourselves with him: our destiny with his destiny, our vision with his vision and our mission with his mission. It is to know that we are not pulling the yoke alone and by our power but together with Christ and by the strength that comes from him.

Therefore, let us pray: Lord we find that there are many problems and hardships in our life, which are burdensome and heavy, and some of them very severe.  But we remember the truth that we are yoked with you, O, Christ, and so my problems become light and give me consolation and rest.   We pray, O Lord, “help me to remember that there is no problem I am going to face today that you and I together cannot handle.”  Grant me courage O Lord, to take your yoke upon me and learn from you, that you are meek and humble of heart.   Thank you Lord, for inviting me to be your “Yoke-partner.”  Lord, take away from me any anger, hatred, jealousy, my anxieties, worries, frustrations, fears and fill me with your meekness, peace, joy and happiness.  AMEN. 

May God bless you!   Thank you.