Ploughing Scene,
Painted by  Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899),
Painted in 1854,
Oil on canvas
© The Walters Arts Museum / Creative Commons

Ploughing Scene,
Painted by  Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899),
Painted in 1854,
Oil on canvas
© The Walters Arts Museum / Creative Commons

Gospel of 14 July 2022

Shoulder my yoke and learn from me

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. 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.’

Reflection on the painting

In this very short reading today, Jesus uses the imagery of a yoke. Most of his listeners at the time were probably involved in farming or fishing, so the image of a yoke must have appealed to them because it was familiar. This probably is less so today, in our age of industrialised agriculture. Nevertheless, it is easy enough to work with this image that Jesus gave us. A yoke keeps two oxen together as they plough the fields, to prepare for a new season of crop planting. They have to work together. The stronger ox leads the weaker one, as they work their way through the fields, ploughing one row at a time, towards completing their task. We humans are the weaker ox, needing strength, guidance and encouragement from Christ.

Today’s painting shows a farmer ploughing his field. The heat of the noonday sun is palpable. The right half of the painting shows the part that has already been ploughed; the left side has yet to be ploughed. The two oxen and the farmer need to work together, in perfect harmony and synchronicity to work the fields and prepare for planting and harvesting. Note, too,  the small birds in the bottom right corner, pecking at the furrow left in the wake of the ploughing. Our artwork is by Rosa Bonheur. She was among the most celebrated painters of animals in the 19th century. Bonheur frequently depicted ploughing scenes that highlighted her command of animal anatomy, which she studied through dissection.

When Jesus uses the word ‘overburdened’ in today’s Gospel, he suggests that to pull this load on our own would be too much for us: we simply can’t do it on our own. Rather, we have to work together with Christ to accomplish our task, with him providing leadership and direction… only then can we work towards an abundant harvest…

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Patricia O'Brien
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
10 months ago

Great comfort in Jesus’ words…whatever’s going on with you, I can take it on…

Charles Marriott
Charles Marriott(@chazbo)
10 months ago

Beautiful words. Surely inspiration for the words attached to the base of the Statue of Liberty; ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

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