How often have we ever thought that “there must be more to life?” I would venture to guess that it isn’t as uncommon as one might think. As humans, we are designed to follow a higher purpose, and it is when we seek to follow the will of our Lord for our lives that we feel most fulfilled. Through our Baptism and Confirmation, we are called in a special way to reflect on this idea and to identify how we might follow God’s will more closely as His disciples. Could it be that the question about there being more to life arises more often when we are focused on ourselves and making ourselves “happy” rather than focusing on how we are called to follow the will of God for our lives? This Sunday’s second reading might shed some light on this topic, for we hear St. Paul tell the Romans that “if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” These words can certainly be applied to our understanding of discipleship and our desire for there to be something more to life. For if we live according to the flesh and seek things that bring fleeting happiness in this world, we will not only be left feeling empty in this life, but ultimately, we will be unworthy of eternal life. If, however, we seek to follow the direction of the Spirit in our lives and to live as disciples of our Lord, then not only will we be more fulfilled in this life, but we will be worthy of the rest that our Lord promises to those who have labored to build up the kingdom of God. I know you may be thinking that following the will of Our Lord and living as true disciples of Christ seems to be easier said than done amid a world that places greater emphasis on personal happiness than on the good of others (and building up treasure on earth rather than treasure in heaven,) but Our Lord is with us each step of the way to guide us and give us His grace to make this task manageable.
In the Gospel today we hear Jesus tell those who gathered to hear Him preach: “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 yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
In the day and age in which Jesus was preaching, this message would have made much more sense to his audience than it might immediately make to us today. If, however, we take a moment to consider what a yoke is and what our Lord was saying to His listeners, it certainly makes sense in our striving to live as His disciples today as well. Our Lord offers us a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, but what exactly does this mean?
Technically, a yoke was a device used by farmers to harness two animals together so that they might work in unison rather than independently when ploughing the fields. On a more metaphorical level, the rabbis often referred to the interpretation of the Torah as a “yoke” which was neither easy nor light. What our Lord was saying is that when compared to the message taught by other rabbis, His was easy, and if we connect ourselves to Him under His yoke, then He is there to lighten the burden of living as His disciples.
I know that following the will of Our Lord doesn’t always feel like the yoke is easy or the burden is light. At times, it may even feel like following the ways of the world would be easier than living for Christ and seeking to follow His will in our lives. But I assure you that Our Lord is there to help lighten the burden. The thing that’s easy for us to forget is that a yoke takes two to maneuver it. We’re never left on our own to shoulder the burden of cultivating a life of Christian discipleship — Our Lord is always connected to us if we take these burdens to Him in prayer.
So, as we strive to live as Christ’s disciples in the midst of the world today, remember that uniting ourselves to Jesus under His yoke of discipleship and our striving to follow God’s will for our lives, while not always easy in the moment, will ultimately lead to greater fulfillment is this life and our being worthy of the rest that Our Lord promises in the next.