“Come to me...”

This week's reflection is written by
Very Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS

Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your hearts will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

These three brief Gospel verses capture the essence of our Oblate vocation which is to live Jesus and to bring him to our world today through the learned doctrine and inviting spirit of St. Francis de Sales. These verses are in the DNA of all who embrace Salesian spirituality. I would like to say a little something about the key elements of these verses.

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There are many times in life when we are lost or weary or afraid or uncertain or just plain confused. How can we find our way again; or be renewed and refreshed once more; or no longer be afraid or uncertain or confused? Jesus says, at those and at so many other moments in our life, “Come to me.” Jesus, friend and Lord, companion and savior, wants us to come to him and be comforted, protected, forgiven and loved. “Come to me” is an invitation from his divine Heart to our broken or hurting or lonely heart. “Come to me”: Jesus Himself will teach us what those three words mean for each of us; he will speak and comfort us and say to us in a quiet whisper, gently, and lovingly: “Be not afraid. I am here; I am near: Come to me.”

Jesus is the Divine Teacher whose lessons are not those of a book, but of the ultimate purpose and promise of life. We learn from this Teacher simply by walking with him, staying near to him, spending time with him and being with him. We learn from him by accompanying him from the cradle to the cross to the empty tomb –not only his cradle, cross and empty tomb, but ours as well!

At the last supper, John the Beloved rests on the heart of Jesus. In one of the appearances of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary she too is permitted to rest her head on his heart, to listen to its beating with love for her and for each of us as well. A gentle and humble heart does not force our love but invites it. As St. Francis de Sales puts it, “All through love; nothing through force.” That is how God loves us and how we are to love God -- and how we are to love one another.

In speaking of the Christian life, Pope Francis loves to use the language of “encounter.” How does Jesus encounter the sinner, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the lonely, the outcast, the migrant, and those on the margins of society? He draws near to them, befriends them, touches them, and heals them. His is the encounter of someone who knows how to break artificial and hurtful boundaries that separate and divide. His every action is a parable of who God is and how God has chosen to encounter us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

We have no problem understanding the need for our bodies to get sufficient rest and to unwind and relax, and “to chill out” from time to time. Our hearts need rest too. Let’s accept the call of Jesus to “come to me.” There, close to him, our hearts will find the rest that renews and strengthens, refreshes and uplifts.

A yoke is a wooden structure that joins the heads of two oxen so that they can work as a team in pulling a plow. To be yoked to Jesus is to be joined to the Lord in a common effort. But in this case, the effort, though shared, is not equal. His strength and holiness more than make up for our weakness and sin. Yoked to Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, the task of our spiritual life become a transformed burden, one that is no longer heavy or hard, but truly light and easy.

Scripture scholars like to remind us that Jesus rarely speaks of himself. His focus is almost always on the Kingdom of God and the God of the Kingdom. These few lines from Matthew are the exception. Here Jesus offers himself as someone for us to imitate, especially in his singular virtues of gentleness and humility. For St. Francis de Sales these simple lines unlock for us the meaning and the mystery of Jesus whom he wants us to love and imitate. This is why he invites all of us to “Live Jesus!”