Anyone who grew up in New England probably took a fourth grade field trip to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It is a recreation of a village from the 1830’s with original buildings and artifacts from a time where day-to-day life was, well although not easier, certainly less complicated. As part of this outdoor museum there is a working farm, and on this farm there is a duck, e-i-e-i-o, wait that is another farm. There are oxen on this farm which are used for many purposes, they were pretty much the precursor to modern day tractors.
I remember watching the farmer work a pair of the oxen through the fields, pulling the mower or the tiller or sometimes a wagon. The oxen wore a yoke. This yoke helped the oxen work as a team. Back in the time of Jesus, these yokes would have been made from wood, and hand crafted especially for the ox who would wear it. When you put the yoke on each ox, it would release the burden from the other, this way, the load would be lighter. As the saying goes, two oxen are better than one.
In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus tells us that when we are burdened we should take his yoke, and he will help relieve our burdens. And since it is Jesus who is making the yoke, it will fit perfectly and we won’t even know it is on.
How many times do we feel overwhelmed by life’s burdens and wish we would have help? I know this is where I was for most of my adult life. I know I was burdened every day, worrying about how to pay the bills, my kids, my marriage, all the things that modern culture tells us we need to worry about. My life was all about things and getting more or them, after all I wouldn’t be happy without them, again because our culture said so. I never asked anyone, especially not Jesus to help lighten the burden. I never took the yoke Jesus was offering me and my life greatly suffered from it. Not that my life was all that bad, but as those of you who have read this blog know, I definitely believe it could have been a lot different and better.
I also remember those oxen would also wear blinders, so they couldn’t see what was going on around them, these blinders would eliminate distractions. They might not even realize there was another ox helping them. Now sometimes we shouldn’t be wearing blinders but there are also some times when we do need them. In my case, whenever I write, I have a problem getting distracted. I tend to have either the radio or the TV on, or am talking to the woman I love, or have the internet going and start surfing. This is why I need blinders, to keep me focused. In fact, they might help me stay on topic when I write, like now.
Like with the oxen, blinders will not let us know that there is another in the yoke with us. We won’t even know Jesus is there for us, working with us. He is always there but unless we ask, he won’t help us, well okay, indirectly he still does, I can attest to that, but our burdens won’t be lighter. Until I understood that Jesus was there, right next to me, and more than happy to help, I struggled. When I finally woke up (have I told the story about falling off the back of the truck?) and asked Jesus for his help, my life changed. I am still struggling, but at least I can see the forest for the trees. I know that God has a plan for me, I don’t know what it is but I know there is one, and I am doing my best to discern what it is. As I have written before, I also know what the end goal of life is, I know what I hope is waiting for me, and I am working towards that goal. Whether I reach it or not I don’t know, but I am giving it my best shot.
Jesus said to the crowds: “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.” – Matthew 11:28 -30
If you go to Old Sturbridge Village, be sure to visit Saint Anne’s Shrine and Parish, maybe I’ll see you at Mass.