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yokeSome years ago I heard an interpretation of today’s most familiar gospel lines (MT 11:29-30) that made sense and has stayed with me. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says, “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.” The picture this conjures up naturally is a pair of oxen joined together by a wooden crosspiece over their necks pulling a plow. The presenter I was listening to didn’t change any words but asked us to think for a moment about what Jesus was really saying to each person. He wasn’t just saying if we trust him our burdens will feel lighter; he was offering to share our burden, to join in the experience. He spoke of my burden indicating that our burden was his burden which he was willing to take on in humility, to give us rest from carrying it alone, to make it easier for us. In other words, he is the other side of the coupling, attached to us as we “pull” the burdens of our lives along. The definition of “yoke” implies a tethering, attachment, joining together that is inescapable. It seems then that Jesus is “stuck with us” – unable to detach until the field is plowed, the tasks are complete and we ourselves are no more. Until that moment, Christ is beside us lightening our load, cheering us on, companioning us in the way that St. Augustine saw things when he said, “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.” When we recognize this closeness and let go into God, all becomes light. So today, those oxen are replaced in my mind’s eye with me and Jesus walking along, tethered together, hardly noticing what we’re pulling because we are so engrossed in the conversation he has begun about possibility and creative ways of living and the light that comes from within.

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