“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
This invitation from Jesus may be one of the most loving and grace-filled invitations of all time.
Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church in the 16th Century, says that the yoke that Jesus is talking about is the first and greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as our self, is the yoke Jesus invites us to put on.
Years ago, my wife and I purchased an ox yoke which we found in the attic of a Maine antique store. It is massive, made of solid oak. Its beam is more than a yard in length with a girth of six inches. It is heavy to lift. In contrast to an ox yoke that holds two animals together for purposes of pulling a wagon or plow, Jesus’ yoke is not heavy or burdensome.
Jesus tells us his yoke is easy and light. It is not a burden to carry. In fact, when we choose to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as our self, whatever other burdens we may be carrying become lighter.
In November, I learned that my prostate cancer had returned in the form of a tumor in my pelvic area. I had had a prostatectomy fifteen years earlier, followed by three years of hormone therapy and then several years of undetectable PSA, a blood test that measures the presence of prostate cancer. I am currently undergoing proton radiation five days a week for seven and half weeks.
While all of this is a burden, it has been lightened by the yoke of Jesus and his Holy Spirit in the form of numerous and faithful prayers from family and many Christian friends from our church, the People of Praise, a Christian community to which we belong, Christians in Commerce/WorkLight, a workplace ministry in which I participate, and other acquaintances. The pastor of our church also administered the sacrament of anointing and healing to me.
My burden has been further lightened by the personal care of my doctors and technicians, and the advances in medical technology which also come from God when medical scientists discover the mysteries of God’s creation of the human body. The PSMA scan that detected my tumor was just approved by the FDA last May and can find tumors many times smaller than a typical CT scan. Proton radiation is a more advanced form of radiation that is supposed to have fewer side effects and does less damage to the surrounding tissue and organs.
The yoke of Jesus can bring healing, trust and peace through his special presence, and through the prayers and support of family and friends. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, family and friends. Thank you, doctors and technicians.
Do you have a burden that the yoke of Jesus could lighten?