Recall the picture painted of the King-to-come in the first reading from the prophecy of Zechariah:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your King shall come to you; a just Saviour is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and He shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The King-to-come whom the prophet foretold is, of course, Jesus, who will establish God’s kingdom over all the earth, proclaiming peace and banishing war, in all, a just Saviour, Who by His victory over sin and death, will conquer the power of Satan and free mankind from its thraldom to sin.
How will He free mankind? St. Paul told us in our second reading that Jesus, the Risen Lord, embraces all who turn to Him at His Father’s call, and bestows on them a Gift, the Holy Spirit, Who will abide with them and in them:
If the Spirit of the One Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, you are not in the flesh, and the One Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you. If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
A just Saviour, indeed, is He Who gives the Gift of His Spirit to those who, answering His Father’s call, believe in Him; that is the background painted by the prophet Zechariah and by Saint Paul, and with that background in mind we can well understand Jesus’ words in the Gospel:
Come to Me, all you who labour 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 your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light.
Jesus is inviting those who believe in Him and His Good News to come to Him and take His yoke upon themselves, that is to embrace and obey His gift of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of Truth and of Love, that He might free them from their thraldom to sin and introduce them into His Kingdom where the Spirit rules:
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
We come across Jesus calling out publicly ‘Come to Me’ again on the occasion of one of Israel’s greatest feasts when crowds were everywhere to be found:
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
And then St. John (7:37-39) goes on to tell us:
He spoke this concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
We have other words of Jesus reported by St. Matthew (25:31-36) where He speaks openly of His Kingdom:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory ... all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
The Kingdom to be thus fully manifested when Jesus comes in glory was inaugurated in the very first ‘church’ preaching of the word of Jesus as St. Luke (10:1-2.9) tells us:
After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go (saying): ‘Heal the sick there, and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”’
And so, dear People of God, know yourselves, your situation, and your calling: you have heard the call of the Father, and the Good News of Jesus proclaimed to you by Mother Church; you have been made -- through baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit – an adult member of the Body of Christ and a privileged citizen not indeed of the Roman Empire but of the Kingdom of God, and as such, the Holy Spirit is now reminding you that, as a responsible citizen of that Kingdom and loyal disciple of its King and Lord, you should learn to fight against the enemies of that Kingdom in the strength that He gives now and will give you, that is, against sin in your own life first of all, and then -- according to the measure of your endowment by the Spirit – against sin in the world around.
Let us now turn back to St. Paul in our second reading that we may learn what this, our Christian struggle and fight against sin, involves:
Brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Life lived according to the flesh: a settled practice, that is, of living in accordance with our bodily lusts and vengeful desires, will lead us to death, eternal death; because such passions when indulged make slaves of those who give way to, and learn to delight in, them: slaves who take no account the needs of others, have no respect for the harmonious balance and blend of nature, and who totally ignore the fullness and beauty of our being as planned for each one of us by God, our heavenly Father. The restraining of such native selfishness, the curbing and destruction of blind bodily lusts and longings for revenge, the restraining discipline and careful training of all unruly impulses, is what St. Paul means when he speaks of ‘putting to death the deeds of the body by the S/spirit’, for it is only through the Spirit communing with our spirit, recalling and enabling us to appreciate the teaching of Jesus, that we can find strength to walk perseveringly in accordance with the light of life.
However, dear friends in Christ, there is another aspect of Jesus’ teaching to be found in promises such as this:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 10:10-11, 15:11)
For ultimately, dear People of God, it is joy in the Lord that most truly saves us, because Jesus came as Saviour that we might have life in fulfilment of our being: not earthly life as we know it, not an earthly life to delight in and learn to wallow in, but the life for which we were originally made, the life for which we are intended, the life of the Risen Jesus, Who has conquered sin and death on our behalf, and Who now calls us to follow Him where He -- our Head – awaits us, urging us to let ourselves be born anew, by His Spirit, as members of His Body. Our Head, Jesus, is in heaven, and we, His disciples on earth, can be born anew to a life leading heaven-wards where HE our Head awaits us as His Body, born anew to a life of total fulfilment for us, because it will be a life in the context of the Divine Life of Beatitude, where the bonds of mutual Truth and Love, Troth indeed, eternally embrace Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.