July 9, 2023
Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or Psalm 145:8-14
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 (see 1)
Romans 8:9, 11-13
For many years the Central Union Mission carried on its work in one of the most devastated neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. Over the course of several decades, it served homeless and hungry people in an area scarred by the riots that erupted following the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Mission was easily identifiable by the words “Come unto me” displayed prominently near the top of the building.
Because of the gentrification that has swept through the city in recent years, that neighborhood has been transformed, and the building that once housed the Central Union Mission has been redeveloped into upscale housing units, known now as The Mission Apartments. It seems ironic that those words of invitation and comfort for the urban poor—“Come unto me”—remain on the building that is now home to well-off young professionals.
Those three words emblazoned on the side of the former Central Union Mission are taken from the Gospel reading we hear today. They are part of a longer saying of Jesus that is among the most encouraging and comforting texts in all of Scripture: “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
When I read this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, I thought of the moments I spend each morning reading local news and scrolling through my Facebook news feed. On most days my heart aches for people who are carrying heavy loads—the neighbor who anxiously hopes that the new course of chemotherapy is working, the sixty-year old friend who has recently lost his job and home, the clergy colleague whose husband’s life has been slipping away for the past year, the families who grieve the loss of innocent children to gun violence, the trans youth who for the sake of political gain are being denied respect and medical treatment.
If we are paying attention, we can see all around us the faces of people who bear the burdens of responsibility, injustice, suffering, loss, or failure. Indeed, all of us feel weighed down at various points in our lives. Jesus doesn’t make our burdens go away, but in his life and ministry he reveals a God who wants to accompany us and show us compassion in our struggles.
Jesus does not promise a life free from suffering or conflict. On the contrary, becoming a disciple requires that we take up our cross. Yet in our struggles, he bids us come to him in trust: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:29). He invites us to be yoked to him as animals joined together to perform farming tasks. His “yoke is easy” and “his burden is light” (Mt 28:30), because he is right there beside us at every step in our journey.
A Hymn for Today: “Woza nomthwalo wakho / Come, Bring Your Burdens to God”
This traditional South African song was transcribed from the singing of the Mooiplaas congregation. It provides a perfect response to the invitation of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading to those who are burdened. Listen here.
oh, woza nomthwalo;
oh, woza nomthwalo,
woza nomthwalo wakho,
u Jesu aka so za thi hay.
Come, bring your burdens,
oh, come, bring your burdens,
oh, come, bring your burdens,
burdens to God;
come, bring your burdens to God,
for Jesus will never say no.
Text: Xhosa; from the singing of the Mooiplaas congregation (South African); trans. Barbara Clark (Scotland); Mairi Munro (Scotland), and Martin Stemerick (Scotland). © 2008 WGRG, Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Music: from the singing of the Mooiplaas congregation; trans. Weilile Sigabi (South Africa)
Image Credit: The Mission Apartments, formerly Central Union Mission, Washington, D.C.
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
To receive these weekly reflections by email, please send a message to email@example.com and type “Lectionary” in the subject line.