Jesus knew a lot about yokes. Joseph probably made yokes as part of his carpentry work. If so, he would have taught Jesus the art of making good yokes. Select sturdy wood, but not too heavy as to weigh the animal down. Then fit the yoke to each animal. This means measuring the animal’s shoulders, neck, and height from head to hoof. A good yoke eases the animal’s burden. Double yokes enable two animals to work side by side as a team.
Jesus knew about yokes in Scripture too. He knew the yoke was a frequent symbol of bondage. His listeners would have known that too. But when Jesus speaks of the yoke in today’s Gospel, he gives this old metaphor a new twist: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” My yoke, he says. Take it willingly. My yoke is not a yoke of bondage. It is a yoke of bonding. I will teach you how to bear it. In fact, I will bear the yoke with you.”
Recently, a catechist in Chile told this story. She was teaching a small group of Christians in a rural area. At one point she asked them, “What is your favorite image of God?” One farmer said, “For me, my God is the other oxen. We talk to each other every day as we plow the field. The yoke is light when I carry it with my God.”
What burdens are you carrying right now? Are you carrying them with Jesus by your side?