Jesus lived in a rural agricultural society, farming was the way people lived so when he said “Shoulder my yoke” people knew exactly what he was talking about. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull. The point being that both animals pull together making the ploughing less burdensome for either one.
We all need help, and so therefore we should all help each other. Last year I was on placement in a hospital, my job was to go around the wards visiting the Catholic patients, this is something that I didn’t enjoy doing, going up to strangers and talking to them takes me way out of my comfort zone, especially on hospital wards. I used to dread Tuesday afternoon hospital visiting rounds. There was one particular Tuesday that I remember, I had a list of patients to visit and the first patient on the list was Sheila.
She was in a room on her own and the door was shut, I walked past the door and peeked in, there was a skeletal lady lying on the bed with tubes and apparatus coming out of her and surrounding her, I was scared I really didn’t want to go in. So I went to visit all the other people on my list, peeking in whenever I passed Sheila’s door. When I had seen everyone else I steeled myself and went to Sheila’s room, I closed my eyes and said a prayer to Jesus, “help me Lord”. I knocked on the door, opened it a little and looked in. Sheila looked over and beckoned me in. She looked truly shocking, just skin and bone her arms looked like sticks and I could see her skull right through her sunken eyes and pale skin. She told me that she had been waiting for her pain relief for over two hours and asked if I could go and see what’s happening, I went and found a nurse who promised to chase up on the medication. Sheila was relieved that her medication was on the way and I was relieved that there was something I could do to help. We had a brief chat, I explained that I am training to become a priest and she told me her uncle also studied at Oscott, when she told me this she smiled, in her smile I saw the beauty of the person before the illness and my heart ached. In that smile I saw Jesus, and this is why hospital ministry is so important, Jesus is present in both the patient and the minister, on that day I wasn’t bringing Jesus to Sheila, I was visiting Jesus in Sheila.
I needed Jesus’s help to get me to open the door to Sheila’s room and in opening the door I encountered Jesus in this small and broken person. I often think of that day
“Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
I need to remember that Jesus is helping me, He is beside me shouldering my yoke, I have to learn to be like Him and only then will I find rest for my soul.