Our Yoke ‘Is Easy:’ A Maryknoll Reflection
Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Sia Temu, MM

Sunday, July 9, 2023
Zec 9:9-10 | Rom 8:9, 11-13 | Mt 11:25-30

“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 is light.” Matthew 11: 29-30

A yoke is a large piece of wood that is attached on the necks of two animals and fixed to the plough or cart that they are to pull. Some people use them for ploughing the fields. This image of being yoked to something is not attractive or comforting. It constrains the one who is carrying it, slowing them down and sometimes even derailing their energy.

I would imagine most of us prefer to be free and in control of our lives, but the truth is that we are all yoked to something, even though we may not be aware of it. Jesus knows our reality, and that is why he is inviting us to learn from him. He, too, experienced being yoked during his earthly life and found ways of lessening the burden. He shared his life experiences with his disciples and others who listened to his wisdom.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is inviting us, individually and communally, to reflect on the kind of yoke that is holding us. What are our lives yoked to? What is directing our choices and priorities? Is the yoke that we are carrying necessary? What are the ways by which we can contribute to lighten the yoke for us and for others?

Recently, during the fourth session of our Conversations for Social Change, my co-facilitator shared how she and other women in their community were able to shoulder one another’s yoke and made it light as they courageously moved forward with peace and hope. Apparently, there had been rising cases of alcoholism in her village. Most men were spending their daily earnings on illicit brew. Sadly, they would even steal things from their families which they would sell to buy or give out in exchange for alcohol. This not only drained the family incomes, but it also left the responsibilities of taking care of the families to their wives. The burden of raising children alone and the fear of losing their husbands and sons to alcohol weighed heavily on the women.

So, the women got together and decided to share their predicament with the village chairman. Although he promised to stop the trend, he did not — because he also drank along with the other men. Desperate, the women decided to take a risk. One early morning they went to the village crossroads. They waited for those who supplied the brew and confronted them, destroying all their liquor. Chanting slogans, they moved to the homes where the alcohol was brewed and destroyed the containers. They vowed to do this every day. Within a week every woman in that village had joined this movement, and in less than a month they had paralyzed the business of illegal brew in the village.

With time, some men in that village started drinking responsibly while some quit drinking alcohol altogether. One of the reasons for their transformation was that the alcohol was now not readily available. All is well that ends well.

Some of the men thanked their wives for saving their lives. They testified that not having the brew available all the time, gave them enough time to work on their farms and engage more in the welfare and development of their families and their community. These women were able to listen, trust and internalize the words of Jesus, “Learn from me, take my yoke upon you… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” With this assurance, they were able to overcome the fear of powerlessness and vulnerability. They also were able to recognize the power of unity and solidarity for a common cause.

This is the message that Pope Francis echoes when he dreams of a Synodal Church. A church where everyone becomes aware of her and his responsibility, and where each one does his or her part in communion with one another to realize God’s mission of creating a better place for all. The Prophet Zechariah, in our first reading, reminds us of the joy which comes from this place of peace and harmony within our communities.

Maryknoll Sister Sia Temu, from Tanzania, joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 2003. Since 2006, she has been part of the multicultural peace building team in Nairobi, Kenya, which works in programs including Conversations for Social Change.

To read other Scripture reflections published by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, click here.

Featured image: Oxen yoked together pull a plough in Nagarparkar, Pakistan. (Paul Jai via Unsplash)

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Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Visit www.maryknollogc.org.