September 18: St Joseph of Cupertino (Mt 11:25-30)




            Jesus addresses his disciples, the “little ones”, “mere children”, who are struggling under the written demands of the Mosaic Law and oppressed by the additional six hundred burdens imposed on them by the oral tradition of the Pharisees (Matt 11:28-30).


            Later in Matthew, Jesus reproves those Pharisees who “tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!” (Matt 23:4).


            Jesus says, “They occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do; since they do not practise what they preach” (Matt 23:3). Instead, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).


            Jesus calls his disciples to cast off the yoke of the Pharisees and to yoke themselves to him, as though they were beasts of burden harnessed together.


            He offers them freedom from the crushing burden of the Pharisees, but he is not preaching the abolition of all laws in favour of utopian liberty. No, he invites them to shoulder his yoke (Matt 11:29), which he has just described: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 11:24).


            There is a great difference between the yoke of Jesus and that of the Pharisees. Jesus carried his cross first, and still, today, he assures us that he will carry our cross, or yoke, or burden with us. To the extent that he helps us, his yoke is easy. Only he can make our burden light, because he carries it with us.


            Jesus Christ walked before us, carrying his cross, and now he walks beside us, helping us to carry ours. Let us pray for the gentleness and humility of heart that he wants to teach us, and that will make our burden so much lighter.