hard work?

I came across this familiar passage this morning and it brought together some thoughts that had been swimming around in my head:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mt 11.28-30)
I've always been quite sensitive to the burdens of responsibility. And also the social admiration given to those who take on a lot of responsibility and are "hard workers." I've experienced that to be just as prevalent among Christians as anywhere else, though I don't recall Jesus ever commending hard work. I suppose the social pressure and our material needs are motivation enough for most people.

In the midst of this pressure (especially high among Christian activists), these words of Jesus are a great relief. I'm continually drawn back to Jesus' promise of the "blessed" life, the life of the kingdom of God that he offers us right now, and this also includes our work, which Jesus seems to describe in a very different way than most of us experience it. An easy yoke? A light burden?

I was reading another Catholic Worker book yesterday (which is a habit I've gotta quit) and it spoke of the heavy labor of hospitality and caring for the poor as being part of the suffering of the Christian life. I've wondered about that before. It seems clear that we should expect suffering if we follow Jesus; he experienced it himself and predicted it for his followers. But is it the suffering of heavy responsibility and a lot of hard work?

I'm thinking no. Jesus says "come to me," not to take on heavy labors but to rest from our labors and burdens. The sufferings Jesus faced were not responsibilities and work he took on himself. His suffering was under persecution, enduring the ill-treatment of those who turned against him. And persecution was also the suffering that he told his followers to expect. Not the constant fatigue of the workaholic or the driving stress of the activist, but the patient endurance of other people's "hard work" against us.

There are endless bosses in the world who want to lay burdens on us or conscript us to work hard for their purposes. Jesus is not one of these. He says, "I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, my burden is light."

More tomorrow...