“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 your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” ~ Matthew 11: 28-30
Christ is calling us to live in docile submission to His gentle rule. He is asking us to take on His yoke. His yoke is sweet, with the sweetness of love, and His burden is light. He calls us to come to Him, all of us who are burdened with the sins of this world, and this burden of sin is heavy.
Therefore, all of us who are in trouble, in sorrow, or in sin should come to Him; not so that He can exact punishment, but so that He may remit our sins. He will remit our sins and “refresh” by setting in us all quietness.
“All you going about tormented, afflicted, and weighted down by your cares and appetites, depart from them, come to me and I will refresh you; and you will find the rest for your souls that the desires take away from you (Mt. 11:28-29). They are indeed a heavy burden, because David says of them: “For my iniquities are gone over my head; and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me.” (Ps 37:5) [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book I:7,4]
The yoke is the Gospel of Christ. We need to be so familiar with the Gospel so that we can learn from Christ. Learn from Him to be meek in temper, lowly in mind, not going about hurting others or despising anyone. In addition, make sure that the virtues we show in our deeds are also retained in our heart.
“My yoke is sweet and my burden light (Mt. 11:30), the burden being the cross. If individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness. This will be so because they will be traveling the road denuded of all and with no desire for anything. If they aim after the possession of something, from God or elsewhere, their journey will not be one of nakedness and detachment form all things, and consequently there will be no room for them on this narrow path nor will they be able to climb.” [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II: 7,7]
St. John of the Cross in his Counsels to Religious concerning the practice of virtue says to “undertake all things, agreeable or disagreeable, for the sole purpose of pleasing God through them. To do this with fortitude and constancy and acquire the virtues quickly, you should take care always to be inclined to the difficult more than to the easy, to the rugged more than to the soft, to the hard and distasteful in a work more than to its delightful and pleasant aspects; and do not go about choosing what is less a cross, for the cross is a light burden (Mt. 11:30) The heavier a burden is, the lighter it becomes when borne for Christ.” [St. John of the Cross, Counsels to Religious no. 5 & 6]
The reward Christ promises for bearing this yoke is rest in our soul. This will make us useful to others and we will also have peace. However, even while submitting to this yoke of Christ we may have to endure some hardships. The Lord says the way is narrow. Indeed the way of virtue is difficult, especially so for the slothful. It may seem that because of these hardships that we are not being called from labor to rest, but from rest to labor. Nevertheless, we are being renewed inwardly and are given a foretaste of rest in God and in the hope of future blessedness with Him in heaven. All things done with love, no matter how hard, are not really hardships because love makes doing the good easy.
The yoke is heavy because of our weak nature, but it becomes light and easy with God’s grace. Christ helps us to bear the yoke. A yoke always joins two. Walk with Him beside you as a friend and all will be sweet and light.