Fr. Dominique Peridans
At this point in Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 11, Jesus’ ministry is in full swing: soaring sermons, holy healings, companion commissioning and town tussles. If Jesus had a Facebook page, it would be bursting at its seams! [A good question to ponder: if the Incarnation had occurred in our time, would Jesus have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account?]
Jesus then underscores the unbelief and the resulting inhospitality of his own people. Early Church Father, Saint John Chrysostom (+407) says that Jesus “puts this question, showing that nothing had been omitted that ought to be done for their salvation.” In other words, God gave His people all that they needed for their encounter with their Savior, and they did not believe in or welcome Him.
Contrasted with this, from a place of vulnerability, we have a surprising, surprisingly intimate moment, a conversation with the Father—and we get to eavesdrop! Jesus thanks the Father for sharing His secrets (i.e., what He carries deep in His heart) with those whom one might not expect: not the leaders of His people, but with the child-like. “You…have revealed them to infants.”
In so doing, Jesus reveals the key to receiving the secrets of God: being child-like. Is that it? You mean: no ascetic practices, no social justice campaign, no theology degree, no moral perfection, no yogic stillness, no perfect church attendance? No. These are all secondary—important, perhaps even intrinsic, but secondary. Children are not ascetic or engaged in social justice, have no degrees, are morally immature, cannot typically sit still and, on their own, would probably not attend church because too boring . The child-like: those who trust, who judge not, who welcome.
Now, what is beautiful, and so hope-filled, is that God actually wants to share His secrets. It is His wish. He does not need to. God, however, is love, and love, by nature, radiates. God simply wants to share His secrets, and His true(est) secret is Himself. God opens His mystery to each of us. And thus the great(est) secret in our lives is God, is Christ.
From this intimate conversation with the Father, Jesus extends the unconditional invitation that we read in verse 28: “Come to me.” You will notice, as suggested, that there are no contractual terms. Jesus does not say, “Come to me all you who can pay dues, all you who understand the divine mysteries, all you whose track record is impeccable and have your act together.” Au contraire, we are invited to “come” as we are: indebted, misunderstood, hobbling, incomplete, uncertain, scared, indifferent—“all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens.” What an invitation!
There is one unusual condition in the un-conditional invitation, however. If we are to experience the rest of which Jesus speaks, rest that comes directly from His heart, we must take upon ourselves His yoke and His burden. And this is where Jesus loses me.
Another yoke does not equal rest! And, so, I respond, “Jesus, if you give me your yoke and your burden, I’ll be pressed to the ground, and will never find rest.” Well, if ever there were a man of his word, it is Jesus. And, Jesus promises rest—somehow, in taking His yoke and burden upon us. This, of course, can only make sense if the yoke, is, in fact, a source of liberation and strength. What liberates and strengthens? Love.
Now, which act of Jesus—although burdensome at one level for a time, in fact, supremely communicates divine love? The Cross. The mystery of the Cross. And so, I think Jesus says, “Meet me at the Cross.” Which does not translate: “Meet me, in your imagination, in Jerusalem on Calvary.” or “Meet me in your ascetic attempts at imitating the Cross”. Instead, “Meet me in my pouring forth of divine love—which can even occur in your suffering.” The love that Jesus poured forth at the Cross is eternal. The horrific pain that he endured at the Cross was momentary. The love liberates and strengthens, and attracts us to Jesus, who says—unconditionally—“Come to me”.
If we accept the invitation, we are set free from all that keeps us from loving, i.e. burdens of the heart, and we find rest for our souls. Our souls can only find rest in our Source, in God, our home. “Come to me” can otherwise be said, “Come home.” We have only to let ourselves be drawn, to accept the invitation. Jesus will take care of the rest. Jesus deposits His Spirit within us Who, within us, “takes care of the rest”.
Let us then “rejoice greatly” and “shout aloud!” “Our King comes to us…triumphant and victorious, humble” (first reading), gracious and full of compassion, of great kindness…loving to everyone” (psalm).
Sermon prepared by the Rev. Dominique Peridans
for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost