Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. You will find rest for yourselves, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I don’t know if everyone gets the full meaning of that. I used to picture the yoke Jesus spoke of as a wooden harness that fit over an ox’s shoulders, but it is more than that. It is a double harness or yoke, and it is made to fit over the shoulders of a pair of beasts. Our English word ”yoke” is derived from an Indo-European word that means “joining.”
A lady at Mass this Saturday, looking forward to today’s reading, recalled how one time I came prepared to illustrate this Gospel. Using big pieces cardboard, I had constructed a six-foot-wide double yolk. I had held it up, showing where Jesus fit in under one side, asking you to join him under the other.
Let me say a word about oxen. In my dozen years with a country parish in Korea I did a lot of walking to villages surrounded by rice paddies. I usually saw lone oxen plowing, but I sometimes I saw them working in pairs.
It sometimes happened that while waiting for someone from a Catholic village to come out to meet me, I would plant myself down on the grass to wait. More than once on such occasions, I found myself sharing that spot of grass with an ox whose owner was off somewhere. From those times my notebooks are enriched with my pencil drawings of those magnificent beasts. They are unbelievable combinations of docility and strength.
In his parable Jesus compares himself to an old ox who is there under the yoke along with you in any good task you are working at. He is telling you that he has learned how to live happily through his days by never going against his master’s directions. He asks you to let him show you how to keep your cool by never fighting against God’s will.
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