When Burdens are Light and Easy

7 December 2005. Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
Mt. 11, 28-30. When Burdens are Light

Jesus speaks to all of us who are desperately trying to find God and desperately trying to be good, and finding our tasks impossible and burdensome. Jesus speaks to all of us who have faithfully followed Christ, but find ourselves in the midst of the post-modern world at odds with its values. Jesus speaks to all of us who find ourselves in a complex and confusing world, where people are rough and reckless, where divisions between people have become more pronounced and alienating, where problems are built on top of older problems. Jesus speaks to all of us who are overwhelmed and overly anxious, battered by the daily grind of things. Jesus speaks to us who are weary and tired and exhausted. Jesus speaks to us who seek rest, who desires to be home with oneself and with God. And he says, “Come to me, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

I have two points. First, “My yoke is easy.” The word “easy” is in Greek chrestos, which means “well-fitting.” In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well and would not wound the back of the animal. Thus, if we translate the English word, “easy”, using the Greek word chrestos, the meaning of Jesus’ words “My yoke is easy” means “my yoke is carefully measured to fit you.” Thus, Jesus means that the life He gave us is not a burden to wound us; our problems are made to fit us. Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly and perfectly.

This tells us about our attitude and regard towards our problems. God does not promise to unburden us, to remove our problems totally from our lives, and to have us live without challenges. It tells us that a large part of the weight of our problems lies in our attitude towards it. They say that there are two ways to describe a glass half-filled with water: one, is to say that it is half-empty, and the other is to say that it is half-full. Often, the stress and the anxiety are borne out of an attitude. A problem can be seen as a glass of water half-filled, by regarding problems as opportunities for growth and learning, OR as a glass half-empty, by regarding problems as threats to our life. This is easier said than done: but it is high time for us to see problems as they are, and not as we make them look larger than they are. Nonetheless, problems are opportunities. Since the Gospel tells us that the Truth has been revealed to mere children, a father tells us his story:

A lesson in heart is my little 10 year old daughter, Sarah, who was born with a muscle missing in her foot and wears a brace all the time. She came home one beautiful spring day to tell me she had competed in "field day" -- that's where they have lots of races and other competitive events. Because of her leg support, my mind raced as I tried to think of encouragement for my Sarah, things I could say to her about not letting this get her down, but before I could get a word out, she said, "Daddy, I won two of the races!"

I couldn't believe it! And then Sarah said, "I had an advantage". Oh, I knew it. I thought she must have been given a head start...some kind of physical advantage. But again, before I could say anything, she said, "Daddy, I didn't get a head start...My advantage was I had to try harder!"

Second, the sentence, “My burden is light,” suggests two things: that there are burdens in our life, and Jesus proposes an attitude that could make our burdens lighter. And that is, the attitude of love. It is not that the burden is easy to carry; but it is laid on us in love. Our burden is meant to be carried in love. And love makes even the heaviest burden light. There is an old story which tells us how a man came upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy who was lame, upon his back. “That's a heavy burden for you to carry,” said the man. “That’s no burden,” the boy answered. “That’s my brother.” The burden which is given in love and carried in love is always light and easy.

However, there is another way of making burdens light. It is to help one another. Another story that tells us that Truth has been revealed to children:

In the streets of New York, on a cold day in December, a little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, "My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?"

"I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes," was the boy's reply.

The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them
with a towel.

By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, "No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?"

As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: "Are you God's wife?"


We are all called to be “God’s Wives”. Today, we are asked to change our attitudes towards our life and the challenges of Christian living. Our burdens make us into strong, dignified individuals when carried like the cross in love. And we could better help others make their burdens light by lending a hand like a wife who holds her children close to her heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another very good one Father! it's really nice to read (specially listen!) to your homilies...that's one thing i really miss in UP parish! -ruby-