Matthew 11:25-30
The Lord's Yoke
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino

Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

At that time Jesus said in reply, "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 the childlike.  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."

The English author G. K. Chesterton once wrote "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and not tried."  Many would resonate with that sentiment when considering the significant demands of the Catholic life.  Surely many of us have heard from friends or family thoughts like, "your life seems so difficult," or "I could never live with so many rules and obligations."  Maybe we ourselves have looked at the lives of those without Christian faith, and in difficult moments envied the seeming freedom they have to live however they please.  Christ himself even says to his followers, "how narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life."

Yet today, Jesus tells us something that seems quite opposite.  He says to us, "I will give you rest," and "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  He presents the Christian life here not as the arduous choice, but rather as the easier path, as the road to relief.  What does he mean, when clearly the road of seeking Christian perfection requires great effort and discipline, and how do we square his words here with what he says about striving to enter by the narrow gate?

We find the truth of the matter in unmasking a lie that the evil one likes to use, namely, that there is or can be such a thing as an unburdened life, a life without any yoke at all.  He presents the world to us as a choice between slavery to God, or freedom for ourselves.  The truth though, is that there is always some kind of yoke to which we submit, some organizing principle that guides our lives and actions.  If we reject the yoke of God, we do not find absolute freedom, but must now either bow to some yoke of the world, or carry the burden of our own self-determination.  The Lord tells us that we can find rest with him, because his yoke is in fact easier than the yoke the world gives us, or the yokes we would carve for ourselves.

The difference in the Lord's yoke is love.  The world does not love us when we take on the yoke of seeking its approval.  The impersonal force of public opinion is not trying guide us to any particular place for our own good, and can turn against us in an instant, without remembering any of our previous friendship.  When we make yokes for ourselves, defining our own identities, we often do so in imitation of something we see out in the world anyways, or even out of opposition to something painful in our past, or something we see and hate in ourselves. The Lord, however, does love us, and more than we could ever love ourselves.  He only yokes us with his commandments in order to lead us to perfect happiness.  His commandments may be difficult, particularly in the beginning when we do not understand them and have not yet grown strong in grace, but that are intended as training in spiritual health, not given to break us down, but to build us up and make us capable of bearing the weight of eternal glory.  The Lord craftsour yokes with great gentleness and concern for our good, and goes so far as to carry them with us, sharing all our troubles, dears, cares, trials and difficulties.

The road that he leads us down might be narrow at first, but it is the only road that leads to rest, and to the broad pastures of loving freedom.