When I opened my bible to read today’s gospel passage a few days ago, I found an invitation card addressed to me. I would like to base my homily today on my invitation card. The invitation card I have in my hand is not the one I am talking about. However, I will use this card, a wedding invitation card, to explain the invitation card I found in today’s gospel passage.
Generally, an invitation card invites a person or a group of people to an occasion. Structurally, every invitation card has most if not all of the following: the name of the person or group sending the invitation, the invitee, the occasion, the date/time, the venue, dress code and R.S.V.P. Having looked at the general structure of invitation cards, let us now look at the special invitation card I found in today’s gospel passage.
In today’s gospel passage, Matthew 11: 28- 30, I found these words of invitation addressed to me, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves…” In these three short verses, I find the structure of a typical invitation card. The sender of this card is Jesus Christ. The invitee as you can see is Emmanuel Ochigbo. The occasion to which I am being invited is Rest. The date/time of the occasion is Now. The location is Jesus Christ. The dress code is Gentility with Humility, and finally, RSVP: The Yoke of Christ.
The invitation is clearly coming from Jesus Christ. He spoke those words. He has sent the invitation to “All … who labor and are burdened.” I knew immediately that he was referring to me because I labor and I carry a lot of burden. There are many things that worry me. Many things do not go the way I want them to go. Like St. Paul, the good things I want to do, I find them difficult to do, and the bad things I don’t want to do, I find myself doing them very easily (cf. Romans 7:15ff). The date/time is Now, for scripture says “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Psalm 95). And the venue is Jesus Christ, for he said, “Come to me!”
What kind of rest is Jesus talking about? This rest does not mean less work and more sleep. Jesus is not proposing a social change where I will work for shorter hours and get higher pay. This is the rest of the seventh day of creation when God saw that all he created was good and He rested. This rest happens when we realize our true nature; when we live in harmony with ourselves, our neighbors, nature and God. St. Augustin realized this rest and exclaimed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
For the dress code, Jesus has asked me to come in gentility and humility because he is gentle and humble of heart. The First reading indicates that the humility Jesus demands of us is the kind he himself lived out. “Riding on an ass” indicates that the King enters the city peacefully as its rightful ruler and not on a horse like a military conqueror, yet his dominion is to the ends of the earth. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Humble people know their place in the order of things and so they do not arrogate divine powers to themselves. They remember that they are creatures who are dependent on God. They always remember that they are not the sun that the planets must revolve around. Those who lack humility think everything must be about them. At every child birth, they want to be the child, at every wedding, they want to be the bride, at every ordination they want to be the candidate to be ordained, even at funerals they want to be the corpse, just anything to make them the center of all attention.
Finally, we have the R.S.V.P. This has been misunderstood and misused in many different quarters. As a little child growing up, I thought it meant “Rice and Stew Very Plenty” (meaning that there will be enough to eat and drink at the occasion. Even if you don’t like the host or the occasion, just come for the food). But it actually comes from the French, “Répondez s’il vous plaît,” which means “Respond, if you please.” It is either a little respond card where guests can let the host(s) know whether they will attend the occasion or not, or some phone numbers/email addresses through which guests can respond whether they can attend or not. In today’s special invitation from Jesus, the RSVP is “The Yoke of Christ”. Yoke is “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.”
The Jews used the expression “The yoke” for “entering into submission to something or someone.” Here, Jesus is saying that if you are going to honor the invitation, then respond by taking his yoke upon your shoulders. The yoke of Christ is not really a yoke but a bond of love, which joins us to him, and through him to our loving Father in heaven. My dearly beloved in Christ, this invitation card was originally addressed to me because I worry over many things even when God has taken control. Are you in the same shoes with me? Will you like to be set free and enjoy the rest that Jesus has promised? If your answer is “Yes,” then RSVP now!!!