All that we call human history - money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery - [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. - C.S. Lewis
Gospel text (Mt 11,25-30):
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
“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 of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Today, two realities define Jesus in this Gospel: no one knows the Father except him, and He is «gentle and humble of heart» (Mt 11:29). We can also discern in this Gospel two attitudes that we require to properly understand and enjoy what Jesus is offering us: simplicity and the desire to get close to Him.
What is a yoke? A yoke is a piece of wood or metal placed over the necks of two animals walking side-by-side. It keeps them in line when plowing a field. The yoke changes independence into dependence. The two animals must depend on each other to save their own neck. If one of the animals balks, or runs ahead or sideways, both get a stiff neck.
In the USA, we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow. We are culturally conditioned to desire independence rather than dependence. We want to do our own thing, not go where someone forces us to go. When we're in a yoke, we're not independent. In His mercy, Jesus does not relieve us of His yoke, but instead slips our yoke upon His own neck and plows the straight line with us (see Lk 9:62). No wonder Jesus' yoke is not heavy (Mt 11:29); Jesus our Strength (Phil 4:13) is bearing it with us.
When wearing Jesus' yoke, we can't just follow every whim and fancy, or we'll get a stiff neck. We'll be "stiff-necked people" like the Old Testament Israelites (Dt 9:6). We can't follow the ways of the flesh, for Jesus isn't walking that way (Rm 8:7-8). If we keep looking back, we can see why we're not fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62); we'd have such a sore neck that we'd be of little use to the Lord. So take Jesus' yoke, learn from Him, and follow His footsteps (Lk 9:23).
«Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28). Jesus is humble and humility is the sister of simplicity. When we learn how to be happy through simplicity, many complications are dispelled, many needs disappear, and we can rest, at long last. Jesus invites us to follow him; and He is not deceiving us: to be with him is to take his yoke upon us, to assume the demands of his love. We shall not be spared any suffering, but his load will be light, and our suffering will not be a consequence of our own selfishness but, because of love and with the Spirit's help, we shall suffer only what we should and no more. Furthermore, let us not forget that, «the tribulations we suffer for God are softened by the hope» (St. Ephraem).