By Mark Davis Pickup
In the Gospel of Matthew (11.25-30) you will find a much loved passage where Jesus says “Come to me, all you who weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Our Lord was extending an invitation to those who follow Him to be obedient to his words.
From the writings of the saints and testimonies of countless Christians throughout the centuries, we know these words of Jesus are true. Although Jesus was addressing Jews suffering under the weight of unnecessary religious responsibilities of the Pharisees, his invitation was, and remains, open to all.
There is something about resting in the love of Christ that has lightened the burdens that I have encountered in my life. Why? I know He is the hope of mankind, the Alpha and Omega—the consummation all things seen and unseen. And as I just stated, Christ is the truth in whom millions of spiritually burdened people have found rest and peace not only today but ever since Christ made that promise.
Our Lord’s words carry an echo of the first beatitude found earlier in the book of Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” People who carry heavy spiritual burdens are often the same people who are poor in spirit.
Why would the poor in spirit be blessed? It flies in the face of worldly thinking; we live in a self-centered time that promotes hollow self-esteem and self-exaltation. Well, I think that people who know they are poor in spirit are usually acutely aware of their utter need for something more than themselves. Their abject internal poverty can make them seek God’s mercy. They understand their need of forgiveness and they dare to imagine they can be right with God. They find the answer to their seeking in the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, through faith. The Master's blood on the cross can settle their problem of sin. Never underestimate the restorative power found in the sacrament of reconciliation.
Spiritual blindness can fall from the eyes of a darkened human heart burdened by the weight of sin. The first rays of Christ’s light can break through a heart of darkness as a direct response to the first inklings of new faith (however fragile that faith may be). Christ became poor so that we might become rich. He died that we may live. He conquered death so that we can experience resurrection too.
Those who are poor in spirit are closer than they think to another of the Beatitudes: becoming “clean of heart.” Christ said “Blessed are clean of heart, for they shall see God.” The kingdom of God (heaven) is where humanity sees God clearly for all eternity. St. Paul said, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.” (1Corinthians 13:12.)
The kingdom of God is not just our possession at some point in the future. It begins here and now as we humbly detach ourselves of earthly interests in favour of an ever closer attachment and devotion to Christ. Earthly things are no longer seen solely as objects for self-gratification rather for the pursuit of a perfect charity, furthering the Gospel, and the glory of God.
In reference to “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” the Church teaches that the Beatitudes “reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the kingdom already belongs.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2546.)
The rich rely on their own self-sufficiency and abundance. It is the poor of spirit who look to God for their hope instead of the world. In doing so they are surprised to find true happiness. The Catechism assures us that as the poor in spirit devote themselves to God with complete abandon, they find themselves free from anxieties about tomorrow. Then it says, “Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.”
At a personal level, I have been given opportunities to witness for Christ to other incurably ill people and their families. My wheelchair allows me entrance into their grief, their fears, and their sorrows. I tell them how Christ abides with me in the poverty of my physical circumstances. He is leading me home and restores my hope and lessens my earthly burdens. He can do the same for them.
God can reveal himself to us even at our points of deepest anguish—when our burdens seem too heavy to be borne. We can go to Christ. He will give us rest.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2017/01/christ-will-give-you-rest.html.
image: Lauren Rushing via Flickr | CC-2.0