Jesus said: “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
We learn about working hard and carrying heavy burdens at an early age, anyway, I did. I think I was about 10 years old when I had this awareness. I had two older brothers and a sister who were slowly disengaging themselves from house chores as they advanced in age and studies. The house chores that they use to do, almost daily, like washing and drying the dishes after meals, were being passed on to me and my younger sister. Our whining fell upon deaf ears and our parents were not having any pity on us. We felt over-worked and unduly burdened.
One evening, after diner, I had had enough. I announced that I was going to run away from home! My mom asked, “Do you want me to pack you a lunch?” I decided to stay.
The older I got, the realities of hard work and the heavy burdens of life became much too real. Hard work was not just about physical labor, such as working long hours in the fields or pouring cement for foundations under the hot Texas sun. It was also about making difficult life decisions, like deciding who I wanted to be and what choices I needed to make to achieve my dream. Added to this, I became aware of the burdens of life: the death of grandparents, disappointments in friendships and the burden of not having much money. They seemed, at times, overwhelming.
As a young adult, I also learned that I carried the burdens of society and the injustices of world leaders with me. We found ourselves at war for a cause that lacked clarity as the years passed. We found peoples within our country who were treated brutally, even killed, for trying to register to vote or eat at lunch counters or drink from public water fountains. There was a felt need within us to say or do something in response, to be prophetic witnesses.
These burdens and injustices began to take a toll on us personally and as a society. We realized that no one person was going to fix it. No one political party had all the answers. And added to all this, there was the realization that it was going to take a lot of hard work to build a better world.
It seems to me that Jesus is speaking to me personally as he invites us to come to him so that we find rest, the kind of rest that will relieve us of our burdens as we assume his yoke and his burdens. By surrendering ourselves to him, we discover someone who is meek and humble of heart, someone who will enable us to rest easy and peacefully.
Today, we are filled with so much unrest, personal unrest, emotional unrest, social unrest, political unrest, anxious about what is said or not said, how it’s said and what needs to be said. If we take Jesus’ invitation seriously, then we will find rest and peace in him, in his word, in his Gospel, in his Truth, in his Life and Death, and Resurrection. These realities were true when Jesus spoke them, and they are true now. Love your neighbor and your enemy, treat the other with kindness and dignity, welcome the stranger, welcome the children, forgive the sinner, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I find that if I strive to do this, then I will find peace and rest. Yes, it may seem to be hard work, but soon we will find the yoke easy and the burden light!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.