Once I read a legend concerning the hidden life of Jesus that is quite enlightening. This legend claims that Jesus was one of the master yoke-makers in Galilee. People came from miles around for a yoke, hand-crafted by Jesus son of Joseph.
What made him special was his attention to details. He would spend considerable time measuring the team of oxen, their height, width, space between them and the size of their shoulders. A yoke, as you know, is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two oxen and attached to the plow. Within a week, the team would be brought back and he would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to this specific team of oxen.
In Matthew we listen to Jesus proclaiming that ‘his yoke is easy’. A better translation would be ‘well-fitting’. God gives us the ideal yoke we need to keep us looking ahead in our journey towards haven. It fits us well, does not rub us nor cause us to develop sore feelings.
Many times, however, when we have a problem, we feel as if everything is going wrong. Instead of adjusting our shoulders to the yoke, we kick against the goad. We easily fall into self pity, thinking that nobody cares or that everything is falling apart. As always in life, we have to cart off the basic destructive attitudes that tend to weigh down our whole spirit.
First of all, we have to let go of the idea that our problem is permanent. Few troubles last forever. And those that cannot be solved can usually be managed. After the night, there is always the light.
Secondly, it is important to let go of the idea that our problem is pervasive. Few problems affect every area of your life. There are always bright areas in our life even in the biggest of tragedies.
Thirdly, let go of the idea that your problem is personal. Problems tend to discourage us into depression. There is nothing wrong with you because you have a problem. All capable and successful people have problems.
All this may help us to cross the threshold into a positive perspective. We Christians are lucky. I remember an old story about a little boy who was out helping dad with the yard work. Dad asked him to pick up some rocks in the yard. The boy was doing OK until he came to a huge rock buried in the dirt. The little boy struggled and struggled while dad watched. Finally, the boy gave up and said, “I can’t do it.”
Dad then asked, “Did you use all of your strength?” The little boy looked hurt and said, “Come on, dad. You saw me using every ounce of energy I have.” The father smiled and said, “No, you didn’t. You didn’t ask me to help you!” Gradually we have to learn how to let the energy of Jesus Christ penetrate into our blood system.
Remember that yokes are always designed for two. And our yoke-partner is none other than Christ himself. We have a partner, “a mighty valiant hero” Scripture calls him.
Actually He does everything. He only expects us not to obstruct too much his achievement! An ant and an elephant were crossing over a makeshift rope bridge. Obviously, the bridge was rocking from one side to the other because of the weight of the elephant. Apparently however, the ant did not realize the evident truth! It glanced at the elephant and pompously asserted “We are really making the bridge shake, aren’t we?!” How ridiculous we can be!
Dr. Diane Komp of Harvard Medical School tells the story of one of her Down’s syndrome patients, with whom she was eating, at a restaurant. The restaurant had music and a little dance floor. Her friend loved to dance, but Komp had had a hard day and didn’t feel up to it. But then the young man found a partner, another Downs person named Grace. And they danced, and danced, and the young man was so pleased and excited afterwards. He said to Dr. Komp, “Grace is amazing, is she not? she could dance all night.” Yes, Amazing Grace! Grace dances all day, all night, forever.
Saint Alphorns De Liguori concludes his classical book ‘Uniformity with the Will of God’ in this way. “If some particularly crashing misfortune comes upon us, for example, the death of a relative, loss of goods, let us say: ‘Yes, Father, for so it has seemed good in your sight’. ‘Yes, my God and my Father, so be it, for such is your good pleasure. Above all, let us cherish that prayer of our Lord that he himself taught us: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. ‘Our Lord bade St. Catherine of Genoa to make a notable pause at these words whenever she said the Our Father, praying that God’s holy will be fulfilled on earth with the same perfection with which the saints do it in heaven. Let this be our practice also, and we shall certainly become saints.”
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.