“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For many of us facing hard moments in being faithful to Christ in the midst of a world that couldn’t care less, hearing these words of Jesus may leave us asking, “Jesus, are you serious?” Sometimes it sure does not feel like the life of discipleship in Christ is easy or the burdens of daily life are light. How can we really believe this and let this truth change the way that we respond to the burdens of life as Christians?
When we hear “yoke,” we instinctively think of “burden” because every yoke brings a burden to be borne. The device called a yoke is placed across the shoulders of beasts of burden and attached to a plough or cart to be dragged along. But the yoke also brings a bond between the beasts as they are yoked together to perform a single task in unison. The burdens are borne easily and better when the bond between the beasts is good and they act in unison.
In Baptism, we became yoked with Christ in the sense that we are united and dependent on Him like branches on a vine: “I am the vine and you are the branches. Remain in me.” (Jn 15:5) From the moment of baptism, we were freely initiated into an inseparable bond with Jesus. Jesus’ yoke alone is easy and His burden is light because the bond that His yoke brings is a bond between us and God the Father who loves us so much to dwell and act within us. This divine indwelling, the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in us, establishes that unique bond that alone can make the burden easy for us if only we are humble enough to act in unison with God by humbly accept what God wills for us in daily life. Resisting His holy will for us only makes the burden unbearable.
Jesus alone reveals and makes accessible to us this unique relationship with the Father that we enjoy now through baptism: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.” By virtue of the yoke-bond that Jesus enjoyed with His Father in the Holy Spirit, Jesus embraced the burden of His life, Passion and Death on the Cross and overcome the burden of death by His being raised by the Father on the third day. But it was not the uniqueness of this bond alone that made the burden light; Jesus’ burden was also light because He willed what the Father willed, He acted in complete unison with the Father. He exhibits this oneness with the Father’s will in the Gospel when He rejoices and gives praise to His Father “for His (the Father’s) gracious will.”
In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds the Romans that Jesus has freed them from the burden of sin and bestowed on them the indwelling Spirit that impels them to face the burdens of a new life in Christ even in the midst of a pagan culture. Even the burden of death cannot prevail over this unique bond between the baptized and the Trinity: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (The Father) dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit that dwells in you.” If our bond with God is our guarantee to overcome death, what can’t we overcome in this life through this same relationship? The Romans will realize that the yoke of Christ is easy and the burden is light if they do not only enjoy the divine indwelling and action within them but if they also choose to act and live as God wills for them, refusing to be “debtors to the flesh” and choosing to be live by the Spirit, “putting to death the deeds of the body.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not doubt Jesus Christ’s words to us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The yoke is indeed easy because Jesus Christ has brought us into a union with a God who loves us so much to dwell and act within us. God is so crazy about His relationship with us that he will reveal Himself to those who are not even “wise and learned” enough to go searching for Him. But we will know the lightness of the burden when we let go of our self-will and choose to live in His holy will in all things. The unique relationship has been formed without any merit on our part; it is only our self will that renders the burden unbearable.
I remember one of my interviews some years ago with the now deceased bishop of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana, Bishop John D’Arcy, when I started my vocation discernment. I was then experiencing some signs of a vocation to the religious life but the diocesan priesthood just appealed to me so much as an easier path to take then. This good bishop asked me clearly, “Why do you want to be a diocesan priest?” I gave him many reasons and I must confess that most of them at that point were not sincere. Somehow I was hesitating to embrace what I sensed was a call to radical following of Christ in the profession of the religious vows. Bishop D’Arcy looked me right in the face and said to me words that I will never forget in my life, “Nnamdi, never compromise on what you know is the will of God. God will provide for you all you need if you never compromise on His holy will.” I took his saintly advice and honestly followed the desires in my heart and what where I sensed my vocation truly lay. The burdens have indeed been there and they still are, but honestly, I do believe that, as long as I choose to will what God wills for me, His yoke is indeed easy and the burdens are bearable with His grace. But as long as I hold on to my will, I become too scared to even look at the burdens.
We are yoked with Christ Jesus for life thanks to the His being one with us through the consent of the Virgin of Nazareth. His burdens too will be with us throughout life. I always remind myself to pay more attention on the bond-relationship with the Triune God within me than on the burdens and difficulties. When we pay attention to that relationship with God within us which Christ Jesus has won for us, when we too are crazy about our relationship with God, and when we humbly respond to this presence by doing the will of God, the burden will indeed become lighter than it seems to us when we cling to our self will.
The life-giving relationship has been established between us and God who dwells in us. God continues to be crazy in love with us to dwell within us in this Eucharistic celebration. He re-establishes us in this relationship and invites us to will what the Father wills for us at each moment.
We turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman of the fiat. She experienced the yoke of Christ like no one ever did or ever could and she shared His own burden to the very end. The yoke was easy for her and the burden light because, like Christ Jesus, she too rejoiced in all that God did in her life, “My soul rejoices in God my Savior.” Let us beg her to help and teach us how to face burdens of life in Christ by humbly echoing her fiat, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” If and when we do this by the grace of this Eucharist, we will know for sure that His yoke alone is indeed easy and His burden is light.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!