“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.” (Mt.11-28-30)
This well-known passage from Matthew’s Gospel, speaks of the rest that awaits all baptized Christians, along with all who come to Jesus with contrite hearts and humbled spirits. The word “yoke” might not resound readily in the minds and hearts of those in modern culture, but “burden” most assuredly does. Life, across the centuries, comes with the challenge of bearing the weight of gravity, and mitigating against the decomposition of the matter that makes up the human body. Even under the best of circumstances, the burden of human existence is always present in one form or another on a daily basis.
In ancient Palestine, a reference to a yoke would be immediately understood as a board with two openings to join a pair of animals at the neck. The “side by side” forward movement would increase the power necessary to plow large sections of land. The image of being yoked, together with Jesus must have been very comforting to the initial hearers of this teaching. Facing life’s challenges alone can be overwhelming. With Jesus sharing the same yoke and walking at our side, life truly becomes easier and more manageable.
The “daily bread” for which we pray, is a request for God’s provision in our lives. Food and shelter comprise our basic needs, but there is much more to be considered. We trust that God will provide for all our needs day by day. We pray for the rest that Jesus offers us in body, mind and spirit. We pray that Jesus will be with us as we face the burdens of the day.
Coping with life’s pressures and challenges has become increasingly harder during the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19. While government leaders grapple with ever-changing data and directives, individuals cope with social distancing, unemployment, isolation and uncertainty. If ever there were a time to turn to God, it is now. At first blush, it might seem that declining to accept the yoke and burden that Jesus offers would provide a kind of exemption from adversity and affliction. Nothing could be further from the truth; the bondage and slavery of sin is far more difficult. The binary choice is this: the harsh yoke of self-will, or the gentle yoke of God’s will.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we also pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. We pray for the day when we will be free to enjoy communion with God and the entire court of Heaven for all eternity. Until then, let us pray for the grace to accept God’s gracious invitation to be yoked with us as we journey toward Salvation.