Of Yokes and Burdens
Jesus said: “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Now, I'll be honest with you. EVERY time I hear this, my first reaction is something like this (even if only deep down): "HUH?!"
If you're anything like me, at first glance this seems like a rather tricky saying of Our Lord. Following him, taking "his yoke" and living an authentically Christian life usually seems to be anything and everything BUT easy and light! Be honest, how "easy" is patience in all things for you? How "light" does the duty to proclaim the Gospel in your daily life (including on the highway) feel to you? How often do you feel completely and utterly "at rest" in his arms with not a care in the world, no stress, no doubts or fears?
I guess I'm mulling over this question today: Does Jesus mean not so much that following him will be "easy" and "light" as we understand those words, but rather something more like "simple" and "right?" If Christ is truly "THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life," how could we ever pursue any of these apart from him? I regularly find myself making the distinction between something being "easy" and something being "simple." A simple task is oftentimes not easy at all, if by easy we mean effortless or something we can do without working hard at it. But at the core, it's not something that necessarily has lots of moving pieces or is tremendously complicated - it's just hard. Growing in holiness is, I think, more like that than anything else. It's not about how many prayers you say or the perfect formula for winning salvation all on your own. It's about making the choice to follow him through all things, to listen to him, to believe in him.
I think in this Gospel passage Our Lord is merely reminding us that his way is the correct one. While it is one that will entail suffering, challenge and pain, it is the only one that leads us to the glory we are each meant to one day experience. He never said it would not be difficult and demanding. he said it would be right.