One of the major themes of the Bible is that of "returning". We see it perhaps most vividly in the return of the exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The imagery painted by the prophetic words of both Isaiah and Jeremiah provide us with a treasure trove of descriptive language which explores to the full, the depth of feeling and emotion which is being experienced as the joy and elation of what God has done for his people is articulated. This sense of homecoming is one which we all experience at some stage, the return home from a holiday being just one example. But it is one which plays out those same themes which the prophets were so compelled to deliver. The opening of the eyes of the blind, the restoration of the whole person, the bringing of the good news, these are the realities which were central to what God, through the prophets, would achieve as a result.
Jesus understood that a renewed homecoming was now necessary. The people were once more under the captive hand of an occupation which went further than a simple physical one. He saw that the hearts, and minds, the very souls of the people he lived amongst, were bound up in a such a way that their understanding of the love of God was becoming distorted and distant, functional and
peremptory, and he wanted to liberate them from the internal exile which they were now living. So he began by proclaiming that the message which Isaiah had delivered all those years before regarding the Spirit of the Lord, was now his role. He was the anointed one who was to bring the good news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken hearted, to liberate the captive and that this mission was the "return" to the Father through the inauguration of "the kingdom of God" not as a imposition of power and authority which kept people oppressed, but as a liberation of God's love which lifted people up and restored their dignity and respect. He saw how through the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, the peace makers, the merciful, the seekers of justice, the meek, that the blessedness of God would be a light to open peoples' eyes to the path which restored broken hearts and established true liberty and freedom.
Today's gospel in which Jesus calls us all to return and to come to him is a message that resounds in our hearts today. We are all captives in one sense, bound by all sorts of things which inhibit and restrain us. It is only when we come to him and let him shoulder the yoke, that we find the load lightened. Thankfully we are today taking our first steps towards our restoration. Our Churches are opening and we are once more able to receive the sacrament of love which so restores us and lifts us up.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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."
Amen to that.