Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - July 5, 2020
"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.” (Mt 11:28-30)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel passage from Matthew opens with Jesus’ prayer, praising the Father, the “Lord of heaven and earth,” for His personal, loving, and engaging presence in our lives. The Father has revealed his wisdom not to the wise, learned, and important ones, but to the little ones – that is, to those who are humble and open enough to see and learn that God has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ. True to God’s wisdom, Jesus reassures us that he is always there to help us along the journey.
While the yoke is not a prevalent symbol in the modern world, it is more common to the rural corners of our world – and it was certainly a familiar item in the time of Christ. As a harness or frame for carrying loads, this simple device allows two beasts of burden to be joined and share the load together. Working alongside one other, animals can more efficiently plow the field and accomplish other tasks. In both ancient and more modern rural settings, the yoke can also be fitted to a person’s shoulders and allow him or her to carry a load in two equal portions.
Jesus’ invitation to come to him with our labors and burdens offers comforting words to all disciples and reminds us that He is always by our side if we let him. Numerous times, Matthew’s Gospel makes the claim that Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us (e.g., 1:23; 28:20). Jesus offers his divine self to help ease our burdens, as we strive to live according to our Father’s word. Jesus tells us we do not have to carry the load by ourselves. I believe that the “rest” that our Lord offers is really a sense of renewed energy and attitude that helps us learn from His example of humility and gratitude and compels us to offer humble and joyful assistance to others along the way. Seeing others in need, a brother or sister who is challenged with a particular burden, we are ready to make that simple offer of help, to listen, and thus to ease their burden. Living as Jesus taught us, we help make God’s Word and presence a living reality for others.
Especially in today’s world where so many confront the ‘burdens’ of illness, economic hardship, and a myriad of other challenges, we do well to remember this message from Jesus. When we ourselves feel overwhelmed by life’s present situation, we want to turn to Christ. When we see a neighbor struggling, we want to reach out and see how we can help ease their burden.