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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ
comes again as judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us,
neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he set our sins from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so is the Lord merciful towards those who fear him.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
How do you relax and unwind? For some, this can be achieved simply by a change of activity, whilst for others there needs to be a definite time of ‘switching off’. For some, there needs to be a change of scenery, a moving away from the familiar and the predictable, whilst for others a simple breath of ‘fresh air’ will do the trick. However we find rest and the lightening of the burdens of daily life, it is something that is essential if we are not to become burnt out.
In today’s reading we hear some very familiar, and oft-repeated words of Jesus. These words of comfort and consolation are meant to bring the peace of mind we all seek in our daily lives. Every new day presents us with a new set of challenges, whether the challenges of earlier days have been resolved or not. We live in a world of cumulative pressure, of relentless concern, of overwhelming worry. Today we are brought face-to-face with the fact that Jesus understands this aspect of human existence. We are also being offered a way of handling the pressure, if only we will have faith in the hope he offers us.
As we struggle with that which seems to be too much to bear, Jesus reminds us that he is both gentle and humble of heart. Jesus is gentle in the way he is kind and forgiving of our human weakness and folly. Jesus is humble in the way that he is with us in all our troubles, even though he is both our King and our God. In these words Jesus reminds us of all that he did for us in coming to share fully in our mortal condition. Jesus wants us to go to him when the going gets tough; he wants us to trust that he can relieve the pressure; he also wants us to do the same for others.
Too often we are judgemental of the words and actions of others as we see them struggle with daily life. The poor are often described as being ‘lazy’ and ‘feckless’. The refugees, the lost and the lonely are described as ‘interlopers’ and ‘scroungers’. The mentally unwell are seen as ‘weak’ and ‘spineless’ as they ‘wallow in self-pity’. All of these commonly-held attitudes stand in direct opposition to the message we hear in today’s reading … Jesus’ message of hope, comfort and consolation.
Throughout the gospel narrative Jesus is showing us how we should behave. We are all called to live in a Christ-like way, which means that we too should be gentle and humble in heart. As our weariness and our burdens are relieved through the love of Christ, so we are called to offer the same relief to others. The big question is: ‘Do we?’
Let us pray for the strength to be welcoming, gentle and humble in our dealings with others, and especially with those who are in need of our love and help. Let us pray that, as we trust in Christ’s loving mercy, we might demonstrate the depth of that trust by showing those in need the same care and support. Let us pray that this Advent will see us develop a stronger sense of Christian responsibility as we travel through this world of self-interest and greed.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray with confidence to the Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
Bless and strengthen the Church to which the mystery of faith has been revealed. Grant that she may speak the words of comfort to all people, to meet their diversity without losing the integrity of truth.
Come with healing into the discontent of the world, to take away the suspicion that separates people and sets them against each other. Teach those who think themselves wise in this world to trust the wisdom of the simple.
Make us more gentle and humble in our dealings with others. Give us insight to see the burdens that many in our community are bearing, and generosity to bring relief.
Have mercy on those who are bowed down under heavy loads, wearied by poverty and hunger, by sickness or by the weight of unresolved sin. Bring them to your side, to find comfort and assurance in your love.
We remember those who have laid down their burdens and found eternal rest. We give thanks that to them all mysteries have been revealed and the fullness of the divine love made known.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.