Readings: Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:28-30
Living creatures that we are, we struggle to give birth and then bring forth nothing but wind. By contrast God's power raises the dead and by that same power the land of shades gives birth.
Chastening stuff. The gospel reading is more encouraging. Yes, the yoke is heavy and the burden is demanding but love makes it easy. Love makes all things easy. The most onerous tasks become easy when they are undertaken out of love. This is the divine power of a God who is love, a God who creates out of nothing and who can even restore the dead to life.
The yoke is used to refer to the law and its function of guiding the animal along the right path, keeping it moving in the right direction. The harness makes the animal obedient but it is an obedience imposed from outside, by another mind and another will. The new law, the gift of the Spirit, enables us to love the good so much that the work of pursuing the good and making it present no longer feels like work. It becomes a task, no matter how onerous, that is undertaken freely. Now obedience comes from within, from the mind and will of the one who acts. He is no longer like an animal needing to be kept in harness so that it stays on the right path and is more like the lover, who sees his beloved from afar, the one he wants to be with, and moving towards her he will overcome whatever obstacles lie in his path.
So much for the single yoke, the one made for one animal, and how its meaning is transformed by what Jesus says. If we think of it as a double yoke then our companion in it is Jesus himself. He asks us to take his yoke upon us, does he not? So it is the Cross, our participation in it, and when we look to see who is bearing it with us, who is our Simon of Cyrene, we see that it is Jesus himself. Once again love is making all things possible. As Isaiah says in the first reading today 'you have accomplished all we have done'. It is a key text on the mystery of grace. It is our work, of course, that remains clear. But it is not at all our work, that also remains clear. How can we say both? Augustine,m the Doctor of Grace, jumps in to try to explain it but in the end gives up and says 'show me a lover, he will understand'.
This tremendous lover, Jesus, enters the land of death and sterility and he transforms it by his presence. It becomes the land of life and fruitfulness. We are called to share in this wonderful experience, this mystery of the transformation of all things by the power of the Divine Love. It is a land of peace and rest - and there is so much yet to be done by those who love Him.