Today’s Gospel refers to a “yoke”. A “yoke” is a wooden beam used between a pair of animals to tie them together. The yoke enables the 2 animals to pull together on a heavy load. They must work together or the job will not get done. But, more importantly, a heavy load is lessened because it is shared.
What would have been a burdensome and overbearing task for 1 animal working alone now turns into a manageable task that can be done efficiently by 2 animals working together. Imagine the team work that occurs when multiple pairs of yoked animals are united.
In the reading from St. Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are carrying heavy burdens”. “Take my yoke upon you”. The key message is that we have a caring God, who is never far away, particularly in times of trouble and difficulty. Jesus wants us to go to him and yoke ourselves to him. We do not have to carry any burden alone. Jesus is right beside us in the yoke working diligently to pull his share of the load and to guide us in the right direction. Jesus’ yoke gives us all the power and strength we need to travel on the proper path.
Jesus does not say that, if we go to him, we will have no more trials, no more pain, no more disappointments. There will be “yokes” to carry, but he will carry them with us. Jesus never promises to take away challenges, sorrows or sufferings. What Jesus does is that he promises to walk beside us to help us go through these challenges, sorrows or sufferings. Consequently, any adversity or hardship is easier to bear.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. By working in tandem with Christ, no matter how burdensome the situation or the circumstance, we will not be overwhelmed by it. Because Jesus is there, regardless of the obstacles in our path, our hearts will not go astray and our lives will go in the right direction.
Bishop Barron offers this perspective on today’s Gospel: “Being yoked to Christ means we turn all control of our lives over to him. Can you do that? Do you want to?”
A main teaching of the Gospels is that what we have been given, we must, in turn, give to others. As Jesus is joined to us, we are to be joined to others. Since journeys with us and is yoked to us in our humanity, woundedness and brokenness, we are called to journey with others and be yoked to them in their humanity, woundedness and brokenness.
This is an important truth to reflect upon as we celebrate the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples this coming Saturday. We are invited to join our indigenous sisters and brothers in a special way this day through prayer and acts of solidarity. An act of solidarity is any action that says: “I am at your side; I am yoked to you; your burden is my burden; therefore, your burden is lighter. Together, we will make it to our destination.”
What would be an appropriate act of solidarity that would enable indigenous and non-indigenous people to work together for our mutual common good? After the hurts, misunderstandings and injustices of the past, where do we start to build such collaborative relationships?
Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si” gives us a starting point for such acts of solidarity when he writes, “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home”.
The Pope’s encyclical reinforces church teaching that the Earth is a gift from God. The Earth is given to all nations and to all peoples. All peoples are children of God. We are all made in the image of God. This gift connects us to each other. As indigenous and non-indigenous people, together we share one common home, our earth. Unfortunately, we live during a time when there are very real threats to our natural environment.
Perhaps, the 1st step in an act of solidarity can be saying a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this wonderful gift that our indigenous friends refer to as “mother earth”. This is an excellent expression since we are all equally dependent upon this planet for our sustenance and existence.
A further expression of our gratitude can be asking God to help us, along with our indigenous and non-indigenous brothers and sisters, to be good and responsible stewards of our common home.
As our Eucharist continues, let us offer 3 prayers to God.
First, let us pray that we may be given the grace to answer “Yes” to Bishop Barron’s question: “Yes, Jesus, I want to be yoked to you. Yes, Jesus, I want you to be in charge of the direction of my life”.
Second, let us pray for the grace to be yoked to the people in our lives who have any need.
Third, as we celebrate the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples on December 12, may God help us to realize that indigenous and non-indigenous people need to work side by side as partners, particularly when it comes to ensuring the protection and survival of God’s great gift of the earth.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
December 9, 2020