We know of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, but do we ever think of Jesus as the Strong Ox? This image was brought up at Daily Mass this morning where the gospel has Jesus telling us, “my burden is easy and my yoke is light”. (Mt. 11:28-30)
Now, I will admit that I am more prone to think that His yoke is NOT easy and His burden is NOT light. I have only to look at the cane I carry due to my MS, the national headlines and the struggles so many friends and family members are facing to get into this attitude. We can so readily believe that we are carrying all of our burdens alone. But, we aren’t.
Fr. Jim wanted us to know that while the image of the Good Shepherd might be more familiar for us, Jesus is also the strong ox, ready to carry our burdens with us. We need to remember that we are double-yoked with Him. Fr. Jim talked briefly about how farmers train young oxen by placing them side by side with more seasoned partners; oxen who’ve been working longer, and who know what they are doing. The younger ox is expected to walk alongside this veteran; learning as they go from the stronger ox who is sharing their burden, showing them the way.
This was a new image to me! Honestly, I had always imaged myself strapped with a single yoke, heavy and burdensome. I was the milk maid, carrying the yoke alone, two buckets full of milk splashing on my skirt and my legs, falling to the ground wasted!
The road is uneven, full of stones and holes while my buckets were overfull of what I had to get done – wife and mother, the cooking and the chores. You know; you have the same list and are walking the same rough road. And for too many days, I have felt as if my yoke was mine alone – hard, not easy; heavy, not light and carried all alone.
Never, ever had I thought about the double yoke but here it was being placed in my mind and my heart. I am not alone to carry my burden as Jesus is right by my side! I just need to remember this and allow Him, as the older, more wise, better behaved ox to lead the way and teach me where to go and how to get there. I came home from Mass this very morning to see if what Fr. Jim said was true and – it was!
You can do a deep dive into how to train oxen for work if you want, but simply put, “To get young oxen used to the yoke, you can put the ox which is to be trained along with an ox already trained.” (Farming with Animal Power (FAO – INADES, 1977, 57 p.)
We are not alone – ever. But, we need to remember and allow Jesus to carry our burdens with us. In looking back, I can easily see that those days I felt most burdened were the days I did not ask for Jesus’ help or seek His grace in prayer.
Today’s Mass reminded me (once again) to start my day by putting on my yoke with Jesus beside me. I can do this through prayer, a Spiritual Communion on those days when Daily Mass (if only on-line) isn’t possible and a bit of time reflecting on Scripture. Inspired by today, I’ve got a new scripture on my bathroom mirror to remind me of God’s promises – “Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1)
Yoke yourself to Christ, His words, His Church, His sacraments and not the world.