Thursday of Week 15 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30

The Gospel in many of its passages is very demanding and requires an unconditional commitment to the following of Christ.  We have seen that clearly in the contrast Jesus made between the demands of the Law and what he expected from his followers.  But, again and again, that is balanced by the other side of God – his compassion and his understanding of our weakness and frailty.

Today he invites:

…all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.

He seems to be referring to the burden of the Law and the many other legalistic observances which had accumulated over the generations.  In fact there was a common rabbinic metaphor which spoke of the ‘yoke of the Law’.  We will see some of this in the two remaining readings of this week.  Jesus did not have much time for this kind of religion.  He invites us to come to him instead and experience comfort and consolation.

Jesus invites us to take on his yoke instead.  A yoke can be heavy but it makes it easier for the ox to pull the cart or the plough.  Jesus’ yoke is the yoke of love.  On the one hand, it restricts us from acting in certain ways, but at the same time it points us in the right direction.  In the long run, it has a liberating effect.  It is not unlike the idea of the “narrow door” which Jesus invites us to go through rather than follow the wide road to nowhere.

Jesus asks us to learn from him in his gentleness and humility.  This was in stark contrast to the severity and arrogance of other religious leaders.  Not only are we to experience the gentleness of Jesus, we are also to practise it in our own dealings with others.

I think it was the Scottish theologian, William Barclay, who offered another lovely idea.  It was quite common to have double yokes when two animals pulled a vehicle together.  Barclay suggested that Jesus is offering to share his yoke with us:

He and I will pull together and he will share the burden with me.

In either case, he assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Jesus expects us to give all of ourselves to him but, when we do so, we discover that what he asks is absolutely right for us.  To follow Jesus is not to carry a great weight, but to experience a great sense of liberation. If we have not found that experience yet then we are not yet carrying the yoke of Jesus.

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