To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
“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.”
The great prophet of the Babylonian exile whom we call “Second Isaiah” was summoned by God to comfort and strengthen the people, whose memories were haunted by the destruction of their holy city, Jerusalem. Their family bonds as well as their familiar ways of life had been shattered. The prophet imagined them saying: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” God inspired this prophet to comfort the despairing people and promise a happy return to their own land along the “way of the Lord.” In response to God’s prompting, he composed the melodious, richly theological poems in chapters 40-55. As he comforted the people, he stirred their hopes and restired their sense of identity. Hope can be liberating, uplifting and productive of new life. Hopes that are not riveted on things and actions but center upon persons tend to be very encouraging. Such hopes take the burden from us. Such is the case when we hope in the Lord. Whenever we hope in people, we strengthen them and so make their burden light. If we sense that someone has great hopes in us – not just in what we can do for them but rather in us – we are complimented and buoyed up. We feel that we can “soar as with eagle’s wings!” Such hopes in people have their risks! First of all, they lack the definite plan of action associated with hopes in what people can do. Saint Paul wrote that, “Hope is not hope if its object is seen; for how is it possible for one to hope for what one sees? And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance” (Rom 8:24-25).
Then we who are weary will be refreshed. To take the burden of such risks upon ourselves and learn from Jesus, actually refreshes us. It is always a transforming experience to undertake a great work with someone who is “gentle and humble of heart.” Truly in such situations, “my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Physical weariness is the easiest to deal with. Very often a good night’s sleep will deal with that kind of tiredness. Weariness of heart and of spirit can be more difficult to deal with. A good night’s sleep will not necessarily deal with emotional or spiritual weariness. This is the kind of weariness which leaves us lacking in any kind of hopeful energy. It can be brought on by many things, such as persistent criticism, failure, be it personal or communal, a negativity that prevails about church and state, putting effort into something that seems to lead nowhere.
The Isaiah text also declares that even though young men may grow tired and weary, the Lord does not grow tired or weary. The Lord remains full of life, because he is life itself. Our communion with the Lord of life can bring life to our declining spirits, strength to our weariness. That is why, in the gospel, Jesus calls on those who labour and are overburdened to come to him and promises them rest for their souls. In Advent we call on Jesus to come to us, “Maranatha, Come Lord.” The Lord also calls on us to come to him, so as to draw strength from his strength, life from his life.