Who does this not apply to? Is there anyone who does not experience in this life feeling burdened and in fact desperately needing that very rest that only the Lord Jesus can give? The fact that we have a Savior Who knows us better than we know ourselves, and Who delights to lift our burdens and give us His rest is one of the greatest realities of the Kingdom of God. He does not hold Himself aloof from our problems and our needs, but loves us enough to become one of us, and take on Himself the burden of our sins so that we ourselves could be set free by Him.
In this verse we hear His invitation, which He repeats so many different ways in the Scriptures, the classic example being the great description of Him standing at the door and knocking, waiting for us to open that door. He Whom the Universe itself cannot contain, waits for us, for our response. In the great mystery of the gift of free will, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords waits for us to open the door. Or, as this passage puts it, He invites us to take up His yoke and learn from Him. In so doing, as we cooperate with the wisdom that He gives us as we learn from Him, then we experience in our lives, in our different circumstances, the rest He promises. We must never forget that, if we are to experience His rest, our response is necessary—we must open that door, we must take up His yoke, we must learn from Him.
How do we do that? First, we surrender our lives into His hands, and not just once, but hopefully every day: we begin our day by, in our own words, asking Him to be the center of our lives and fill us with His Spirit, that we would have the strength, the grace we need, to live for Him. But since He specifically calls us to learn from Him, we turn to the source of that truth about Him, His Word, and we make it our Home, even as He invites us to. Hopefully every day, we spend some time in the Book, especially in the Gospels. As we immerse ourselves in His truth, our faith grows, and the more we know about Him, the more we come to trust Him; the more we trust Him, the more we surrender to Him.
But what of His words that His yoke is easy and His burden light, is that our experience?
Many would say no. How then are we to understand this? In my experience, when His yoke is no longer easy and His burden is no longer light, it is usually because I myself am trying to carry it on my own—but the supernatural life that He calls us to was never meant to be lived “naturally,” i.e. on our own power. The second reading speaks to how it is to be lived: “If the Spirit of the One Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you.” The key to living His life is that it must be lived in the Spirit—not under our own, feeble power, but under the great power of God the Holy Spirit! We first received that Spirit when we were baptized, and the Holy Trinity came and indwelt us. The presence of the Spirit was powerfully enhanced by our Confirmation, which is meant to be for us, as the Catechism points out, our own Pentecost! But even as St. Paul points out to St. Timothy, that fire of the Spirit must be cooperated with, must be, as he put it, fanned into a flame. We do this by praying in tongues, by worshipping the King of Kings and getting “under the spout where the glory comes out,” e.g., Upper Room, etc. Do we have the humility to recognize that we cannot live this life without more of His power? If so, then let us humbly acknowledge our need, and take advantage of all the opportunities He gives us to grow in this life in the Spirit He has given us. We may not always experience the burden as being light, but it will certainly be lighter! —Fr. Ed