Isa. 40:28-31; Mt. 11:28-30
In our first reading we heard Isaiah reminding us that God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint or grow weary. Going beyond that he gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. (Isa. 40:28-29)
In today’s Gospel we heard the comforting words of Jesus; “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) In saying this Jesus was speaking as the Son of God, sharing the gift of power and promising to strengthen the weak and the powerless. Speaking as perfect man Jesus could share with all of us human beings the experience of feeling weariness and of bearing burdens. We can see this very occasionally in the prayers of Jesus and his exasperation when the disciples were slow to understand what he was teaching them. We can see it especially in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of his passion. (Mt. 26:39, also Lk. 22:42-44)
Jesus also gave further words of comfort to those who had gathered to hear his teaching when he said; “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.” (Mt. 11:29-30)
Those of you, who have travelled in Asia, or Africa, or in the Middle East, will probably have seen people carrying buckets, or bundles at the two ends of yokes, or of poles carried on their shoulders, or bundles strapped on their backs, or carried on their heads. While I was living in Japan it was common to see women carrying baskets or bundles of farm produce tied on their backs with bands of soft cloth. A few years ago when I lived for two months in Hong Kong on sabbatical I would occasionally see someone carrying a bundle or box on his or her head in one of the market areas of that city. I think we can know from observation that those yokes were not easy and those burdens were not usually light.
Those burdens carried on the shoulders or backs of people are visible. Jesus was also speaking of those burdens that are not visible. In his comforting words Jesus was making the offer to take those invisible burdens himself, or to give strength for the bearing of such burdens to those who asked him in prayer for strength and help in dealing with them.
If we should wonder why Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light I think we can look at his teachings on mercy, hope, and love. It is mutual love, God’s love for us, through Jesus, and our love for Jesus in response to his for us.
At the end of the reading from Isaiah the promise was given to those who wait upon the Lord, those who pray, that they shall renew their strength, “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31) This is the Prophet’s way of saying the same thing that Jesus said in today’s Gospel. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. … My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28 & 30)
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