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Don't Break The Yoke !

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1 Don't Break The Yoke ! on Sat Dec 14, 2013 5:45 pm

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No -  nope  . . . There is no typo or spelling error in the title – the wordplay  is deliberate. This topic is not  eggs without the yolk. Rather, it is on a yoke without the eggs !  Our focus being  not on eggs (yolk) , but  on the  workload/responsibility  we must  take on or submit to  (yoke)  in laboring towards the end of our own salvation and that of our brothers and sisters ; in five words – doing the will of God.


In last  Wednesday’s Mass reading of the Gospel according to Matthew ,  our Blessed Lord uses the “yoke” as a leading instrument of invitation. It is possible to inadvertently miss the brunt of His invitation because the spotlight almost naturally seems to fall on the adjacent, ensuing “For I am meek and humble of heart” section of that passage. Here it is again:


At that time, Jesus spoke to the crowds and exclaimed:

“ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

[Matt 11-30]

Our Lord’s invitation is first of all “Come to me” . But that isn’t enough by itself – it leaves too many loose ends and could suggest a type of spiritual inertness on our part. What activates His invitation is when, once we do come to Him, we take his yoke upon us : This is, according to Jesus, what will ultimately enable us to learn from him and to find rest for our souls.


So what exactly is a yoke ?

Once we dismiss a specific less relevant  definition of yoke corresponding to modern mechanical drive-trains and transmissions, we are left with what is considered the common primary definition of a yoke.

According to all our dictionaries and for our purposes, a yoke is invariably :




  • A crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together.
  • A wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.
  • A bar used with a double harness to connect the collar of each horse to the pole of a wagon or coach.


In my limited opinion, the most important thing to be aware of in contemplating Our Blessed Lord’s related invitation from sacred scripture, is the fact that a yoke as Christ intends it -  in the context of burden or load ,  is not placed on or attached to one individual animal – a yoke is constructed to harness two – so that they work as a team.

Technically , it can be said that what partially makes something a yoke is the beam or bar which distributes a particular load so that it is borne across the shoulders or the back of the neck. Yet it is the sense of the joining which most defines a yoke. The verb yoke is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as:

Put~upon ; couple or unite (esp. pair) in marriage or otherwise , link (one to another) ; (intr) match or work together

 In that sense then, a beam across the shoulders which people in some countries still used to carry 2 buckets  might also be construed as a yoke -as long as a pair of items were being carried.


And we have no lack of scholars who, going deeply into interpretation of the yoke from biblical times , will tell us that , figuratively speaking, a yoke may be interpreted as a symbol of slavery, servility  or submission.

All that they wish to say in that area is good and fine. My point, is that while we consider the invitation of the yoke the way Christ intends it for us , we are much closer to His true meaning when we consider the yoke as being borne by two – not as by one.

I honestly believe when our Blessed Lord says , “Take my yoke upon you” , he wants us to think like this:





 

. . . and NOT like this:




Several reasons to consider why it should be that way:

When it comes to our own individual  sufferings and personal renunciation, we recall that Jesus told us “Take up your cross and follow me” [Matt 16:24 , Luke 9:23] . But the passage/invitation  [Matt 11-30]  considering the yoke is markedly different : He says take  “my yoke” – not take “your cross”. Neither did He say , “and learn from it ” but rather, “ learn from me ”.

Implicit in the examples above is the connotation that Christ wishes us to work not so much for Him, as with Him. It is a genuine expression of His infinite humility.


And if we would desire that the yoke be "light" and the "burden easy" , what better more fruitful way than to have Jesus himself lifting ,pulling , working right along beside us – shoulder to shoulder . . . lightening our load , heartening us ?  Shouldn’t that be something that would inspire us in some way to try and strike up a conversation with Him ?    yup   . . . Someone know a better way to "learn from Him" ? A good healthy Catholic sentiment we might say.   thumbsup 


The imagery is vivid. If we carry the thinking a little further, it isn't long before we encounter the very real, yet mystical concept of acting  in persona Christi ; nowhere more true than when the ordained priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ and His priest act as one . . . the two who wear the yoke both work in and are joined in unison.

Our reflection should continue from there, rather than focusing solely on the example of the ministerial priest standing In Persona Christi Capitis . For although an essential difference between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood exists- because by Holy Orders the priest is sacramentally configured to Christ in his very being, there also exists a sameness in the two ; again, by way of the sacraments. It is just as true that you and I also share in Christ’s high priesthood in a way which is equal in dignity to the ministerial priesthood.


Father John Hardon S.J, in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, briefly defines the priesthood of all the faithful:

PRIESTHOOD OF THE FAITHFUL.

The share in the high priesthood of Christ received by everyone at baptism and strengthened by confirmation and the Eucharist. Essential to this priesthood is the right to receive the other sacraments, of participating in the Church's liturgy, and of being united with Christ the eternal priest as he offers himself, with the members of his Mystical Body, to the heavenly Father in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

St. Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” should then spur us on with encouragement. We could even dare to think that if we put our faith in Christ, once we’ve taken  His yoke upon us, the sky’s the limit . . . truly . . . The next time you’re attending Holy Mass and see the priest add a drop of water to the wine in the chalice which is about to be consecrated, you might wish to try concentrating on the accompanying prayer which the priest softly vocalizes :



“By the mystery of this water and wine,  may we come to share in the divinity of Christ , who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
 . . .  hmmm . . . “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ”  : The implications of this prayer are profound . . .  utterly awesome !



Looks like this time around, the yoke’s on us. So don’t break the yoke , and let’s try not to chicken out once we do take it upon ourselves. While breaking this particular yoke won’t leave us with an omelet ,  it does have the potential to leave us with a full plate of scrambled brains and emotions . . . with no sense of spiritual direction , to the point where we might eventually end up as toast.


Enough said. Let’s get crackin’ and try our best not to worry . . . Things are sure to pan out as long as He is beside us.

 Very Happy 





_________________
    " . . . you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man . . . This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God " . . .   - St. Anthony the Great   

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