Reflection & Dialogue: Is Jesus’ yoke easy or rather unbearable?
One major question in the dialogue between the Church and the society of our own day is the role to be attributed, or permitted, to Christ and the Church in public life. The terms of reference of any such dialogue, where dialogue exists, would be as broad as the message of Christ and the Church themselves. Christ presented himself as the light of the world. Some today would regard the Church and what it stands for as darkness rather than as light. However, we may here limit our reflection to the theme of the ending of the Gospel: the yoke of Christ as sweet and his burden light.
As just noted, the burden of Jesus in question is his person and his teaching. Jesus tells us that the Father sent him into the world so that it have life and have it in abundance. But Jesus made it quite clear that to have that true life one must die to oneself. Paul says the same thing in the passage from the letter to Romans read as second reading today. To be a disciple of Jesus one has to take up one’s cross and follow him. Such teaching, naturally, makes no sense to non-believers, and a number of believers would query it. The renowned Irish-language poet Seán Ó Riordáin expressed the following sentiments in one of his poems: “God’s Church is a halter on my mind. Priests I would regard as eunuchs”. Such sentiments are far removed from the easy yoke and light burden spoken of by Jesus.
Can any solution for this problem be found, or a basis for a discussion of the question? We may note that believers and non-believers will have different approaches to the issue. For believers, faith will always have a certain personal attachment to the person of Christ. Christian life is not just a matter of obeying a set of rules. It implies an awareness of the mystery involved, the mystery revealed by faith, spoken of by Jesus in the Gospel reading. The following of Christ implies an imitation of Christ, taking him as an example and teacher. Faith implies an acceptance of the role of grace and of the Holy Spirit. In this sense for believers Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light, and in fact much easier and lighter than they were for Jesus himself. While Christ’s words under consideration must be evaluated in the light of faith, this does not mean that all efforts should not be made to show the beauty, wealth and significance of Christ’s teaching for the society of our own day, without taking from the substance of what Christ has presented as his yoke and burden