Accept or Reject the Yoke | August 3

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I can’t pretend I’m a biblical scholar or expert. I try to be up front with that. So when I talk about the symbolism of a passage, I can’t guarantee that’s what it means or that it’s what real experts would say. But this is what I heard when I was at mass this morning.

Hananiah seems to be to be a “want-to-be” prophet. He speaks the words that the people of Israel want to hear to as to gain their favor. Maybe he hopes that his prophecy will become self-fulfilling. People always want to be free of their oppressors. The death of Nebuchadnezzar and the freedom of Israel is a popular message. Jeremiah answers the misguided prophecy with tact saying (to paraphrase), “I hope it happens! That would be great! But I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it.” Now I don’t know that the prophets of Israel wore a literal “yoke.” I don’t know what their traditions were. But I can see some very important symbolism here. Jesus speaks of his burden and yoke in the New Testament. To carry a yoke is to be yoked to another. Jeremiah’s yoke is a symbol of his being the servant of the Lord. Jeremiah has submitted to Yahweh’s burden on earth. He freely submitted. When Hananiah broke that yoke, he effectively rejected Israel’s partnership with God. He symbolically said, “We don’t need this. We can direct our own way.”

God had something else to say. Because Hananiah rejected God, God let the natural consequences commence. If they wouldn’t have God, God wouldn’t impose Himself on them. At their request, He withdrew His favor. As such, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar was strengthened and Hananiah himself would die.

Such are the consequences of rejecting God. We will always be yoked to something. John Paul II said that freedom exists to be given away. You are free to choose what you give it to. If not to God, then we often give our freedom to the pursuit of pleasure and become addicted to hedonism, to fame, to any number of things that leave us empty and constantly pursuing the next thing that will make us complete.

That’s why Jesus offers us His own yoke. Give your freedom to the One who gave it to you to begin with. Ask Him what He asks from you.


-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization