When a burden is light- Thursday, 15th week in ordinary time- Matthew 11: 28-30
In His prayer of thanksgiving, Jesus expressed His gratitude to His loving Abba for revealing the mysteries to the simple, and hiding it from those who claimed to be intellectual. But Jesus did more than make a prayer of thanksgiving. He told us what the revelation was – that He has been handed all things by the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal.
Now that the secret is out of the bag, Jesus takes this revelation one step ahead. Having told us the revelation, He now wants us to participate in it; to become one with this mission of the Father and the Son.
There is an intimacy in this whole pericope. Jesus is so intimate in His prayer with the Father and now is so intimate with the disciples. The invitation is filled with tenderness; “come to me”, says Jesus. Jesus speaks as the personification of wisdom. You can touch the feminine characteristics of Jesus, the giver of rest and comfort, like a mother to her tired children (References from the JBC).
Jesus is making one more attempt to win over His detractors. His invitation is to give rest to all, the Pharisees included. But as we know, they reject His offer. They will continue to relentlessly attack Him in chapters 11 and 12, and finally bring judgment upon themselves, when they blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (Verse 32).
At first, these verses seem to confuse us. Jesus invites us – we who are overburdened and He promises rest. However, it seems like we are not to be entirely free for He then wants us to shoulder His yoke. Its sounds a bit unfair; I trade in my burdens only to share Jesus’.
So what did Jesus really mean? The Rabbis spoke of the Torah and the kingdom as a ‘yoke’. They saw the law as something to be placed around a human, shackling them, as beast of burden in a field. They burdened the people with their interpretations of the law that they had come to practice. This made religion and the love of God tedious.
Jesus offers us ‘His yoke’, namely the interpretation of the law and the prophets as it should be, and not as it came to be. The learning about the revelation of God should come from Jesus, even more because He has been “handed all things”. Jesus does not burden us with a law that ties us in knots. He gave us the new commandment, the new yoke; a yoke of love that is sweet and which we share with Him.
Fr Warner D’Souza