Christ our Fellow-Animal

One of the chief boasts of the Christian religion is the wonderful variety of rich farming metaphors used by Christ. Assisting at Mass last Sunday, I heard a homily on the gospel reading for that day in the ordinary form of the Roman rite, which included the Lord’s famous words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The priest, who was visiting due to the ill health of the parish vicar, struck me in his exposition. Christ, in saying, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,” was employing a well-known metaphor; a farmer would take an experienced animal, and yoke it to an inexperienced, wild one. The experienced would firmly teach the inexperienced as the farmer plowed the field.

Christ, with breathtaking simpicity, conveys the entire complexity of the gospel in organic richness. The Father is the farmer, and Christ is our fellow-animal, experienced in obedience and ready to teach a humanity weary of autonomy. But the parable grows yet more astounding; that animal we’re yoked to in baptism is the heir to the estate. The son of the farmer became livestock to turn animals into men. Such is the genius of Christ.