There is a statue of Jesus in the Mission Gardens here at Santa Clara. The pedestal contains two inscriptions from Matthew 11: ‘Venite ad me’ (come to me), and ‘Discite a me’ (learn from me). The setting invites students into an interior calm and rest.
The following is a homily based on that Gospel passage. For readers who might be unfamiliar with a couple of terms here: The Suscipe is the prayer at the end of the Spiritual Exercises in which a person offers everything in one’s life to God; Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991) was the Superior General of the Jesuits, one of the authentic saints of his time, and a great inspiration to many of us to this day. His cause for canonization was recently introduced by the Society of Jesus. Pope Francis prays at his tomb whenever he visits the Jesuit Church of the Gesù in Rome.
“Come to me, you who are labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Taking this passage at the surface level, each of us can find deep resonance with it. For some, it may be as simple as fatigue after a hard day at work; for others, a deeper weariness, from sufferings that beset us and burdens we carry; for all of us, the exhaustion from tracking an ever more surreal news cycle. If we could dive yet deeper, we might find ourselves burdened from psychological and spiritual struggles that go unseen. Part of being human is to know many levels of weariness and to yearn for relief: a vacation in paradise, a vanquishing of the noise and chaos of the world, a stilling of the turmoil within: To seek the One whom Isaiah calls “the desire of our souls” (Isa 26)—the one for whom our lives are intended.
These words of Jesus are an invitation, then, not only to rest, but to surrender. For the finality of our lives is found not in how successfully we have overcome weariness, or even how we may find oases here and there. It is in letting go of all the things that drag us down—our worries, concerns, unresolved personal conflicts—and placing them, gradually, within the ambit of God’s love, which is both tender and powerful—powerful enough to create, to heal, and to draw life out of what is dead. The finality of our lives is found in handing over to this powerful Love not only what makes us weary, but absolutely everything, and resting there. We know that this is difficult, and not humanly possible without the help of God’s grace. Finally, it is only at the moment of death that we are able to hand everything over, realizing in so doing that we have already been completely accepted.
In the time we’ve been given, meanwhile, we can begin to respond to the invitation, to let go of our many burdens or worries, which can even become attachments, familiar crutches. This is the wisdom that the Suscipe concerns, I think, and also what Pedro Arrupe drew upon in his famous prayer:
More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself
so totally in God’s hands.
Arrupe was approaching his death and allowing God to take him up. The final surrender in death is also the moment of our resurrection, the initiation of the new life promised us in the Lord, who is Lord of the living and the dead: “Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust!” (Isa 26) The invitation to surrender, to rest, is an invitation to a new life of being loved into a profound forgiveness and refreshment. As Romans 8 reminds us, in that unforgettable passage: I believe that nothing can stand between us and the love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death itself.
Jesus invites us to the direct experience of allowing ourselves to be taken up in the arms of God’s love. “Fall in love,” Arrupe says in another of his beautiful prayers. Yes, says Jesus, let yourself fall into my love, for I am meek and humble of heart.