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Gospel commentary: ‘Come to Me’

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“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. . . For my yolk is easy, and my burden light.”

With these words, Our Lord tenderly offers us peace and consolation to replace our struggle and suffering. We know that what Jesus promises is true, so why, when we reflect on our experience, do we find it so hard to achieve?

For the answer, we need look no further than the first action Jesus requires of us: “Come to Me.” It is an invitation, not forced upon us, but offered to us in freedom. Our Lord asks, and then humbly awaits our response. Whether we choose to approach Him or not is up to us.

How do we come to Christ? Two common ways available to us are prayer and the Sacraments. In prayer, we offer Jesus our hearts, our minds, and our attention in a conversation inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the Sacraments, we come face-to-face with Jesus. Our Lord transforms us in Baptism and confirmation, feeds us in the Eucharist, frees us from sin in Reconciliation, unites us in matrimony and heals us in anointing of the sick. Each Sacrament is an encounter with Our Living God.

Prayer and participation in the Sacraments requires action. They are a response to Christ’s invitation to “Come to me.” When we choose to seek the Lord and give ourselves over to Him, we find He gives Himself to us, lightening our burdens, granting us rest.

In theory, this spiritual interaction seems simple, yet we know it is not. There are many times in our lives when we do not answer Our Lord’s call to come to him and receive His life-giving gifts. Why? The answers to this question vary, but reflecting on our response to the Lord’s invitation provides a pathway to the peace we seek.

First, we must recognize that while there is One calling to us to offer us peace and goodness, there is another who seeks to separate us from Jesus and all that He offers. The evil one uses deception and fear to tempt us to never answer Our Lord’s invitation to come to Him. When we are aware of this, we can recognize the strategy of the evil one.

One method he uses is to tempt us to be angry at God when we are struggling. We may find ourselves asking why God would allow bad things to happen to us, why others do not have to suffer like we do or any other accusatory thoughts that turn us from Jesus. In our anger, we do not respond to Jesus’ call to “Come to me,” even though it is through His Passion and death that we are saved. Jesus knows our suffering and He desires to give us peace.

Besides anger, another tool the evil one uses is shame. We see this when we allow ourselves to be convinced we are failures, that we are unlovable and that our sins are too much for the Lord to forgive. In this shame we falsely believe that going to Jesus would only lead to rejection.

It is helpful when we are tempted by shame and despair to remember the prodigal son, and how even in his sinfulness his Father ran to him to forgive him, welcome him home and restore his sonship in fullness and love. This is the reality that we as sinners must know and believe. This is who God is.

Finally, a third method the evil one uses when we struggle is to tempt us that we do not really need Jesus. In our pride or ignorance we believe we can make things better by our own efforts, such as changing the situation or at least changing our perception of it. Certainly, these changes may be necessary, but they should not precede or replace our going to Our Lord. To find true peace we must trust in the One Who gives us everything we have, including our talents, our virtues and our health. Without Him we can do nothing. With Him and through Him, however, we are equipped for all that life places in our way.

Jesus desires to give us peace and to lighten our burdens. In our need, may we always remember His invitation: “Come to Me.”

Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s secretary.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017