During this Jubilee, we have reflected many times on the fact that Jesus expresses Himself with unique tenderness, a sign of the presence and goodness of God. Today, we reflect on a moving passage of the Gospel (cf. Matthew 11:28-30), in which Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. […] Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (vv. 28-29). The Lord’s invitation is surprising: He calls to follow him simple people, who are burdened by a difficult life; He calls persons to follow him who have so many needs and He promises them that in Him they will find rest and relief. The invitation is addressed in an imperative way: “come to me,” “take up my yoke” and learn from me.” If only all leaders of the world could say this! Let us try to understand the meaning of these expressions.
The first imperative is “Come to me.” Turning to those who are exhausted and oppressed, Jesus presents himself as the Servant of the Lord described in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The passage of Isaiah states thus: “The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary” (50:4). To these wearied of life, the Gospel puts side by side the poor (cf. Matthew 11:5) and the little ones (cf. Matthew 18:6). They are those who cannot count on their own means, or on important friendships. They can only trust in God.
Conscious of their humble and miserable condition, they know they depend on the Lord’s mercy, expecting from Him the only help possible. In Jesus’ invitation they finally find the answer to their waiting: by becoming His disciples they receive the promise of finding rest for their whole life. A promise that at the end of the Gospel is extended to all people: “Go therefore – Jesus says to the Apostles – and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). By receiving the invitation to celebrate this Year of Grace of the Jubilee, pilgrims throughout the world cross the Door of Mercy open in Cathedrals, in Shrines, in so many churches of the world, in hospitals, in prisons. Why do they cross this Door of Mercy? To find Jesus; to find Jesus’ friendship; to find the rest that only Jesus gives. This path expresses the conversion of every disciple who decides to follow Jesus. And conversion consists always in discovering the Lord’s mercy. It is infinite and inexhaustible: great is the Lord’s mercy! Therefore, by crossing the Holy Door we profess “that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than every sort of evil, in which man, humanity, the world are involved” (John Paul II, Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, 7).
The second imperative says: “Take my yoke.” In the context of the Covenant, the biblical tradition uses the image of the yoke to indicate the close bond that links the people to God and, consequently, submission to His will expressed in the Law. In controversy with the scribes and Doctors of the Law, Jesus puts His yoke on the disciples, in which the Law finds its fulfilment. He wishes to teach them that they will discover God’s will through His person: through Jesus, not through laws and cold prescriptions which Jesus Himself condemns. Suffice it to read Matthew’s chapter 23. He is at the center of their relation with God; He is in the heart of the relations between the disciples and places Himself as fulcrum of each one’s life. Thus, by receiving “Jesus’ yoke” every disciple enters into communion with Him and is rendered a participant in the mystery of His cross and of His destiny of salvation.
Ensuing is the third imperative: “Learn from me.” Jesus projects to His disciples a path of knowledge and of imitation. Jesus is not a teacher who imposes on others with severity burdens that He does not carry: this was the accusation He made to the Doctors of the Law. He addresses the humble and little ones, the poor and the needy because He Himself made Himself little and humble. He understands the poor and the suffering because He Himself is poor and tried by sorrows. Jesus did not follow an easy way to save humanity; on the contrary, his path was painful and difficult. As the Letter to the Philippians reminds: “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (2:8). The yoke that the poor and the oppressed bear is the same yoke that He bore before them: therefore, it is a light yoke. He bore on His back the pains and sins of the whole of humanity. Therefore, for the disciple to receive Jesus’ yoke means to receive His revelation and to accept it: in Him God’s mercy took on men’s poverties, thus giving all the possibility of salvation. But why is Jesus capable of saying these things? Because He made Himself everything to all, close to all, to the poorest! He was a Pastor among the people, among the poor: He worked the whole day with them; Jesus was not a prince. It is bad for the Church when the Pastors become princes, far from the people, far from the poorest: this is not Jesus’ spirit. Jesus reproaches these Pastors, and of them Jesus said to the people: “do what they say, but not what they do.”
Dear brothers and sisters, for us too there are moments of tiredness and disappointment. Then let us remember these words of the Lord, which give us so much consolation and make us understand if we are putting our strength at the service of the good. In fact, sometimes our exhaustion is caused by having put our trust in things that are not essential, because we have distanced ourselves from what is really valuable in life. The Lord teaches us not to be afraid to follow Him, because the hope we place in Him will not be disappointed. Therefore, we are called to learn from Him what it means to live of mercy, to be instruments of mercy. To live of mercy, to be instruments of mercy: to live of mercy and to feel oneself needy of Jesus’ mercy, and when we feel ourselves in need of forgiveness, of consolation, let us learn to be merciful with others. By keeping our gaze fixed on the Son of God we understand what a long way we still have to go but, at the same time, He infuses in us the joy of knowing that we are walking with Him and we are never alone – courage, therefore, courage! Let us not have taken from us the joy of being disciples of the Lord. “But Father, I am a sinner, what can I do?” “Let the Lord look at you, open your heart, feel His look upon you, His mercy, and your heart will be filled with joy, with the joy of forgiveness, if you come close and ask for forgiveness.” Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the hope of living this life together with Him and with the strength of His consolation. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]