Come to me you who are heavy-laden

Today, you could be doing all sorts of things. You could be getting your hair done, going down the pub, you could even be playing bingo. But I am very glad to see that you are here in church. And how good it is that this church is open for worship today, that we here are in the vanguard. 

But why are you here. What have you come for?

Have you come to get out of the house?

To have some company in a big, airy and safe  building?

Have you come because it’s what you used to do, and what you’ve been missing?

Have you come back because you love this place?

Have you come to hear directly the gospel of Jesus?

To receive him in the intimate encounter of the blessed sacrament, which you have been deprived of for so long?

We often seem to find that the gospel of the day is appropriate to our situation. That is especially true today as we find our Lord saying to us , ‘Come to me, all who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.’ What welcome words they are for us to hear today; what balm for the soul. I do not know what burdens you carry with you today. Whatever they are, they may well weigh feel heavy, after these long weeks of lockdown when we have not been able to deal with our problems in our usual ways.

I hope you have kept praying, and laying your burdens before the Lord. But back here in church, in this hour or so we spend at Mass, we can really feel that we lay our burdens down for a while at the foot of the altar. Here we can rest a while in his presence and we are given the spiritual strength to bear them. Here we know the truth of the saying that a trouble shared is a trouble halved, whether that be in prayer or conversation with a trusted person.

We come here today, just as we are, however we are. And at the beginning of the Mass, we bring to mind our sins, and lay them openly before the Lord, those occasions when we have failed to love according to Christ’s command: the nasty thoughts, the cruel words, the failure to do what we know we should have done, but didn’t. Those sins must be confessed with real repentance, we have to be sorry for them, if we are to have their weight lifted by the assurance of God’s forgiveness.

At the intercessions we lay our prayers and petitions, with those of the church, before God, who takes them all in, like the benevolent, indulgent Father that he is. Do we know what we need, and dare we put it into words, and ask in faith? Are we prepared to accept what cannot be changed and have the courage to change what we can?

And at communion we come just as we are to the altar to receive Jesus. ‘though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within and fears without, O lamb of God I come.’ We come to the altar recognizing our vulnerability, needing to be reminded that we are loved by God for who and what we are. We are reminded that when God gave the world his son because he loved us so much, that includes you and me, unworthy though we may be of such a great gift.

And in the blessed sacrament, all of Jesus is placed into our sanatized hands. All of him is taken into the whole of us. Christ enters into the Christian, just as he entered into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, but have we unbarred the gates of our hardened hearts to receive him? Do we recognize, as St Paul says, his Holy Spirit abiding in us?

The people of Israel referred to the Law of God as, ‘the yoke’, a wooden crosspiece fixed to two beasts of burden, such as oxen, that enables them to pull a cart or a plough. Jesus cut through the complexity of the Law, he simplified it. He saw it all through the prism of the great commandments to love God above all things, and to love others as we love oursleves. So he says, ‘my yoke is easy, my burden is light.’

We haven’t got to wade through pages of guidelines to know if we are keeping God’s law. We just apply the test of love to our motives and our actions. Are we loving as he loves? Are we putting Him above all things and treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves?

Today is an important day for us in our church community, as we reassemble again today. The Queen, echoing the late Dame Vera Lynn, told us we will meet again. We have emerged from the bunker, and here we are, with each other and with Christ.   

Let us bless God’s holy name.  Thanks be to God.