My Yoke is easy

Friends in Christ, today Our Lord gives us these words of reassurance: Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I once asked some school kids, what does Jesus mean by a ‘yoke.’ They thought it had to do with an egg yoke! Well, I think many people aren’t familiar with a yoke, which is that wooden beam across the backs of oxen to pull a plow in the old days. It’s heavy, and the ox has to pull with great force all that is attached to that yoke. It’s a burden.
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But Jesus says, that we should not be afraid of taking HIS yoke upon ourselves, because it is light and easy to bear. We sometimes hear people say, ‘You Catholics have so many rules and laws!’ Well, this is a little silly: the rules are not many: Pray, go to Sunday Mass, go to Confession, and ‘Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Those are not many rules!
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I looked up today what Thomas Aquinas has to say about this Gospel passage in the Summa Theologica. He says that Christ’s burden is light in the New Law; it is much lighter and easier than the Old Law. The Old Testament Law had many rules and ceremonies, almost all of which were outward practices, the New Law of Christ has a few outward ceremonies, but is primarily an interior law. The Old Law was about external practices, but the New Law calls us to difficult things on the inside. Not only are we not to kill, we are not to have angry thoughts at our neighbor. Not only are we not to commit adultery, we are not to lust in our heart.
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As St. Thomas says, this interior law is very difficult for a person who is not virtuous. If a person has not developed the virtue, the habit, of chastity – good habits of purity, well, then being chaste is very difficult, the law is burdensome.
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If a person has not trained himself to be patient with others, if he has not acquired this virtue of patience, he will find it very difficult to keep from anger when provoked. But for the virtuous person, who has practiced and developed a habit of patience – for him the Law of Christ is easy.
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So Our Lord is telling us, that if we follow his path and cooperate with grace, developing our virtues, we will find that his yoke is easy and his burden light.

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