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Finding Rest in Jesus

– Thursday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time –

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]

In Matthew 11:29, when Jesus says “take my yoke upon you,” there is a question of whether Jesus is inviting us to be yoked with him, like two oxen ploughing a field together, or whether he is to be understood as the farmer, and you and I as the ox upon whom the yoke is laid. While the former possibility has a certain attraction – the image of Jesus and Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross together comes to mind (see Matthew 27:32) – there are indications elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel that the latter view is primarily meant (see also Sirach 51:26-27). For instance, in Matthew 23:1-4, Jesus says “The scribes and the Pharisees … tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” In short, a contrast seems to be being made between the demands Jesus places upon people, and the demands placed upon people by the scribes and Pharisees.

So, what does Jesus mean when he says that his yoke is easy and his burden, light? Perhaps he means that, because we are now led by the Spirit, we are no longer subject to the law (which was so meticulously enforced by the scribes and Pharisees) but are free to bring forth fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps he also means that, in being baptised into him, we are no longer under the “yoke of slavery” to sin (Galatians 5:1) and the heaviness that comes with a troubled conscience.

In the end, however, the deepest meaning of Jesus’ words can only really be understood through lived experience. You will only truly discover what Jesus’ yoke is, and what his ‘rest’ feels like when, weary and heavily burdened, you find yourself surrendering into his outstretched arms.

by Mark Makowiecki


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