In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”
We have had that same Gospel many times before, and commenting on it over and over is a tiresome matter. But then, day after day, plowing behind an ox is also a tiresome matter, but it must be done.
Ordinary plowing takes one farmer and his one ox, and in time they develop a relationship.
I noticed that in the ten years I served as pastor in Korean hill country. My parish was at the foot of the mainland of South Korea’s highest mountain: Mt. So-rak. From which ridges ran down from its peek to the Sea of Japan, and our farmers plowed the strings of rice paddies they had shored up in the streams running down between those ridges.
In seeking out Catholic villages, I crossed over ridges from which I could look down into the narrow valleys between them. I remember once resting on a ridge while looking down on a lone farmer plowing with his ox. To it he kept calling, “Ee-row, Ee-row,” and it somehow blended their labors into one satisfying effort.
Such single plows cut three inches into the soil, and in time those top three inches of soil were exhausted. At such times, to get at the fresh nutrients four and five inches down, the farmer would fashion a yoke with a double arch to fit over the shoulders of two oxen.