A reflection by Sr Kym Harris osb and downloaded from http://www.prayasyoucan.com.au
When Jesus says that he offers us an easy yoke we may well object given that a yoke was used on animals and slaves to do hard and difficult work. The image appears, at first, demeaning. Be that as it may, let us leave aside this first emotional reaction to the image and ask just what a yoke does. A yoke was a device, usually put around the neck of an animal, or even a person, to enable them to perform a task that was usually beyond them. No animal is ever going to be able to plough a field using only their hooves or their brute strength. A man yoked to a plough is far more effective in preparing a paddock for planting than trying to do it with a spade. Essentially, a yoke was not only a labour saving device, it was something that enabled a far superior job to be done.
Still that leaves the issue of its use being demeaning to a person. The yoke most often used in Jesus times (click red text for a picture of an ancient yoke) was a double yoke – one in which two beasts or people dragged the plough or load. When Jesus calls on us to take up his yoke and says that it easy, his burden light, it is because he is there alongside of us. Jesus fully recognises how hard and difficult our lives may be at times. We may well feel like beasts or slaves caught in situations beyond our control. He, too, has not only lived our life and died our death, he desires to be yoked to us sharing our burden and strengthening us in bearing our load.
Sr Kym Harris osb