Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28
These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.
Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.
But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.
The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.
Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?
We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.
The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:
Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.
The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.
Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.
Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.
It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.
Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.
Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.