An Open Invitation

In our Gospel reading for today, (Matthew 11:16-19 & 25-30) we have Jesus issuing an invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.

“Come to me”, it was an invitation that wasn’t always well received with some whom Jesus approached being unresponsive or unwilling to even listen.

At this time, John the Baptist has been arrested and imprisoned, bringing his public ministry to an end with Jesus’ own ministry in its early stages. While some who heard had responded eagerly to John and to Jesus, others would come up with all sorts of excuses or criticisms.

They called John’s austere life, his self-denial and abstinence, madness. On the other hand, Jesus’ sociability and his readiness to exclude no one led to accusations of lax morals.

Here Jesus likens some of the people as behaving like awkward children; no matter what was offered, nothing pleased them, they found fault, “We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a dirge and you did not mourn”. (11:17)

In our discipleship, our work for the Church, we too can experience a lack of interest from others. We have good news to share, but our invitation falls on deaf ears, no one wants to listen.

It doesn’t matter what we do or say, it doesn’t seem to make any difference. There are some who always seem to find fault. And it can get us down. We can become tired, frustrated and disappointed. We’ve tried our best, but feel we’ve got nowhere.

“Come to me”, says Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.

In Him we again find purpose and direction. We only have to come.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light”. (13:29-30)

To our ears, the idea of a ‘yoke’ may not sound too appealing. But for Jesus’ listeners, and in the context of the religious establishment, it was an illustration they would readily understand.

The Pharisees spoke of people being called to carry ‘the yoke of the Torah’: commitment to the Jewish scriptures, the religious Law. They taught that the only way to be right with God, the only way to know God, was to follow the Law.

But, due to its complexity, with its endless rules and regulations that had evolved over the years, this had become a heavy, heavy burden. A burden with which people struggled. It had become a life burdened by rules.

For Jesus, however, whose commandments are based on love, who is love, and who preached of a God of love, he simplified the Law. ‘Love God and love one another’.

At a stroke, he lightened the load for all, because something done in love, is not looked on as a burden. We do it because we want to, not because we are compelled.

The ‘yoke’ of which Jesus speaks is of following Him. It is living like Him. It is loving like Him; that’s the invitation.

He promises to refresh our weary souls when we come to him. The yoke of grace is easy, and its burden is light.

God’s work still needs to be done today, but Jesus enables us to do that work in a way that we can handle. It is a partnership in building the kingdom.

Whatever work God gives us, or task to which we are called, it is made to fit our abilities; not something that will cause us to fall; “my yoke is easy and my burden light”.

The invitation Jesus gave to the people of 2,000 years ago was “Come to me, all you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”.

The good news? It is an invitation He still makes to us today.

Let us pray.

Gracious Lord, for loving the world and each one of us, we thank you. For your strength that fills us, your love that heals us, and your never-ending grace which saves us,we thank you.For your presence with us today, and for your hand that leads us into tomorrow,we thank you.

Remind us, Lord God, that as Jesus had concern for the weary and burdened, for those whose life was a struggle, so we pray for all today who cry out for rest and relief.

We pray for those who are so confused and worried about what tomorrow may bring and don’t know where to turn. May they hear Your invitation to “Come to me”.

Bless them Lord, let them feel your hand holding them up, give them hope and guidance. Give strength and a new perspective on life to those exhausted and who cannot see beyond their worries.

As you promised that all who come to you will find rest, so teach us to trust more and more in your truth and rejoice in your freedom. In the name of Jesus who is gentle and humble and whose burden is light, we pray.

Amen, and may God bless us all.

Alan.