A Reflection for Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
“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 my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
If you’re anything like me, you read today’s Gospel and thought, “Easy?! Light?!” Having grown up on a heavy diet of social justice preaching, my idea of Jesus’ message was that it’s always, “Gear up, people! It’s time to get to work!” There’s nothing “easy” or “light” about the burden of addressing systemic oppression and widespread poverty. What is Jesus talking about here?
But then I started to think about vocations. Like a lot of young people, I have been thinking and praying a lot about what God wants from me in terms of a vocation. When I pray about some options, I get a range of emotions: uncertainty, fear, wonder. But I have also been startled to find that with time, other prospects that once seemed impossible to me grow not only more appealing, but somehow more natural, more fitting, even easier.
Of course, I always hasten to qualify. I don’t mean that I expect to find an easy vocation—all vocations include struggles. Yet, even as I consider the challenges, I always feel lighter; I feel consolation. The “inner compass of the heart”, as John Neafsy puts it in A Sacred Voice is Calling, is pointing me towards this vocation.
A lot of the heaviness we feel from improper vocations comes from the fact that in pursuing them, we reject God’s “plan” for us.
I think that Jesus’ yoke is easy because it is right. Whatever burden Jesus has for you—whatever your vocation may be—you might find that following it feels almost like releasing a burden rather than taking one on, because the alternative burden of a vocation which isn’t for you can be a terrible weight on your shoulders.
Taking up Jesus’ yoke means ceasing to deny to yourself what you are called to do—what you are made to do. A lot of the heaviness we feel from improper vocations comes from the fact that in pursuing them, we reject God’s “plan” for us.
I hesitate to say “plan” because such a mentality carries with it many negative tropes and damaging traditions (e.g. “God wanted one more angel in Heaven”), but it is true that God has some kind of plan. He plans that you be joyful and you do good, and I think he plans for a lot of us at least a somewhat specific way to bring that about. In our society, many of us are actually encouraged to deny God’s plan. We experience harsh resistance when we spread the Gospel, advocate for the vulnerable or dedicate ourselves to prayer. Society tells us that individualism, capitalism and secularism will free us of our burdens, but really, they are burdens themselves—and heavy ones, at that.
Jesus tells us: There is an alternative. In community, we can find a lighter burden. In service, we can take up an easier yoke. In loving God, we can find our true vocation