Wednesday of Week 2 of Advent – Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30

In spite of what we at some times feel, both today’s First Reading and the Gospel remind us that our God is never far away, especially in times of trouble. In the Gospel, Jesus makes this promise and gives an invitation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Jesus reaffirms what Isaiah says, that we have a caring and tireless God who looks after his own:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jesus seems primarily to be referring to the burdens which the Mosaic Law laid on people, especially as interpreted by some of the Scribes and Pharisees. Under them, it was next to impossible not to put a foot wrong somewhere. And, as they saw it, perfection in the eyes of God was the scrupulous observation of the tiniest obligation.

Jesus liberates us from all that. It does not mean that we do what we like, but all is now reduced to simply one commandment, the commandment to love God and all our brothers and sisters unconditionally. That is not always easy, but we will find that keeping the commandment of love has a liberating effect. It helps us to become the kind of people we were meant to be. In being a law-keeper, I take care of my own ‘perfection’. In following the law of love, I benefit, but my brother or sister benefits too.

Jesus does not say that if we go to him that we will have no more troubles, no more pain, no more disappointments… There will be “yokes” to carry but he will carry them with us.

Someone has suggested that the ‘yoke’ that Jesus is referring to is a double yoke used for two oxen pulling together. Jesus then is saying that he carries the yoke together with us.

Jesus never promises to take away pain. What Jesus does is to help us go through the pain. A life without any pain, without any failure or disappointment, a life without difficulty or challenge, is no life. When children are so protected by doting parents that their every whim is answered and every negative feeling anticipated, what do we end up with – spoiled brats.

Jesus will not spoil us in that way. The challenges of life are necessary for us to grow and mature. But they are easier to bear when he carries them with us, when we know that we are never alone in our difficulties and sorrows. And, because of our own pains, we are in a much better position to help others carry their yokes of sorrow or pain or sickness. Strange as it may seem, it is probable that a world without pain would be a very selfish and individualistic one.

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