“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened.…” Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel have often been a source of comfort and strength to those facing suffering and even death. Jesus invites each of us to come to him with our burdens, our worries, our anxieties, and our cares. Jesus promises us comfort: “Come to me.…and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes these burdens can even come from our religious upbringing. Jesus criticizes religious leaders who through their preaching and teaching “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4). This criticism applies to both Jewish and Christian leaders. While most are good and preach the Word of God some preach themselves or impose their own oppressive notions of God on people. These teachings can indeed lead people to excessive guilt and scrupulosity. Their faith, then, becomes a heavy burden for them, a source of fear and anxiety. How different is the teaching of Jesus? He challenges us and calls us to do God’s will but he also declares: “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Our religion, our faith, should be life giving and a source of joy and hope. If it is not, we need to come to Jesus and he will give us rest.
I have often used this reading for people who are on their deathbed. Through these words Jesus invites them to come to him, to come to their heavenly home. While we all have fear and anxiety as we face death, we also have Jesus’ invitation to come to him, to enter our heavenly home.
So, the next time that you are overcome with fear or anxiety listen to Jesus as he speaks to you: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”