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.” Matthew 11:29–30
For those first followers of Jesus, a “yoke” was a familiar term. Many would have worked with oxen and other animals on a regular basis to plow their fields. To do so, they would place a wooden yoke over the oxen, which was a form of harness that was also attached to the plow (traces), making it easier for the oxen to till the soil. To be strapped with a yoke was an indication of servitude, since that was the role of the oxen.
In commenting upon this passage, Saint Augustine (in Sermon 126) analogized the yoke of Christ with the wings of a bird. A bird's wings are large in comparison to their body. As a result, if someone were to conclude that removing the wings from a bird would make their life easier so that they are rid of that excess weight, such an action would have the effect of keeping them bound to the earth. But give them their wings back and that “yoke” will enable them to soar through the skies.
So it is with the yoke of our Lord. If we accept the invitation to be a servant of God and we take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ for the fulfillment of our mission of service, we will discover that the act of serving lightens us, refreshes us, invigorates us and energizes us. Service of God is what we are made for, just as a bird is made to have wings. And like the bird, if we remove the yoke of service of God from our lives, then we are weighed down and cannot accomplish the good we are meant to do.
We are also told in this passage that we are not to carry our yoke; rather, we are meant to carry Christ’s yoke. “Take my yoke upon you…,” Jesus said. Carrying Jesus’ yoke means we are called to live our lives with Him and in Him. He came to serve and to give His life for others. It is our duty to do the same by allowing Him to do so within us. It is Christ and His servitude that must be the motivation and foundation of our lives.
Reflect, today, upon your call to be a servant in Christ. How is God calling you to serve? Whom is God calling you to serve? And as you answer that question, how do you see your act of service? Does service seem burdensome to you? Or do you understand that it is what you are made for? If you do see humble service as a burden, then perhaps that is because you have not actually tried to serve with and in Christ Himself. Try to ponder Jesus placing His yoke upon your shoulders. Say “Yes” to that act and to the mission of humble service you are called to fulfill. Doing so wholeheartedly will not only refresh you, it will also give meaning and purpose to your life.
My gentle Lord, You came to us to serve and to give Your life out of love. Give me the grace I need to accept Your act of service to me and to also imitate and participate in the service to which I am called. May I take Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, so that I can fulfill the mission that You have entrusted to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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