In the gospels we find passages that are very challenging.  An example: Jesus saying we must take up our cross daily.  Other passages provide encouragement and consolation.  Among the latter is that found in Matthew 11: 28-30.  The persons who first heard those words, the Jews of Jesus’ time, surely felt weary and burdened by the demands of the Law as interpreted by the Scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus said of them: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders”

The Scribes and the Pharisees had developed hundreds of rules and regulations which they thought were contained in the Law of Moses. They believed salvation was gained  through scrupulous observance of those rules.  That is the heavy burden the Scribes and the Pharisees sought to impose on the Jewish people.  Jesus proposed a very different  idea of salvation, freeing people from that burden.

Certainly there are times when we feel weary and find life burdensome.  It may be some special difficulty we encounter or simply the monotony of daily life that weighs heavily.  Those are the times we are challenged to turn to Jesus in faith.  That may well prove difficult.  It is easy enough to have faith when things are going well.  It is in the difficult times that our faith is challenged.

Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us.  The word “yoke” usually has negative connotations.  A yoke suggest being tied to something and a burden to be pulled or carried.  When Jesus spoke of taking on his yoke, the meaning is quite different. It means entering into submission to his will.  Saying it is easy means the yoke is well-fitted, adjusted to our strength.

If we submit ourselves to Jesus, placing complete trust in him, we will find that Jesus is with us helping us to carry our burdens.  It is then that we grasp the truth of those words: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”  And when Jesus adds:” You will find rest for your soul” it is not a rest of inactivity that is promised.  We will always need to strive to follow Jesus more closely.  We will never come to a point in this life where there is nothing left to do, nothing left to endure.

Jesus’ invitation to take up his yoke, to come closer to him, is ever-present.  His grace is always and everywhere available.  Or, as the Irish would put it: there is an ebb and flow to everything, except God’s grace. The great challenge for us is to keep our minds and our hearts open to him.