The final verse of today’s reading from Isaiah is an early hint of Israel’s faith in life beyond death:
While Jesus affirmed resurrection, most of his teaching focused on the way to fullness of life before death. And today’s reading shows him teaching that the way to the fullness of life called “rest” is, paradoxically, to shoulder his yoke and to carry his burden. Jesus is not saying, “Work hard and you’ll get the rest you deserve.” He is speaking paradoxically about the life of discipleship here and now, by asserting that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
Jesus borrows an image from his Jewish tradition when he uses the yoke image. Scribes spoke of the yoke of the Torah, implying that studying the sacred Law of Moses was a discipline, a task worth embracing. When Jesus says that his yoke is easy, he means that despite appearances (narrow gate, rough road) his way is exactly what we seek, precisely what our hearts hunger for. Saint Augustine, who tried every other avenue first, paraphrased Jesus famously when he observed in his Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” In the end, we learn this way of Jesus, not by book learning (though that can be part of it) but by studying Jesus—as reflected in the Book, and as embodied in people of faith around us. If Jesus himself seems daunting, you can catch a powerful glimpse by meeting him in a saint—Bonaventure, say, or Augustine, or Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa, or maybe some as-yet-un-canonized person you know, who maybe even lives in your house.
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