Thursday, July 15, 2010

I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back

Life is to live and life is to give and talents to use for good if you choose. Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God. (Venerable Solanus Casey)

Gospel text (Mt 11:28-30): Jesus spoke thus, «Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is good and my burden is light».

Today, Jesus' words resound intimate and close. We are conscious that contemporary men and women suffer a considerable psychological pressure. This world keeps on turning round and round, we cannot stop the pace. Quite often we move away from the evangelic simplicity by loading ourselves up with rules, commitments, planning and objectives. We feel overwhelmed and tired of continuously struggling without our effort being worth its while. What are we lacking to feel actually well?

Today, at the light of the Gospel, we may review our conception of God. How do I live and feel God in my heart? What feelings uncover his presence in my life? Jesus offers us his understanding when we feel weary and want to rest: «Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28). Maybe we have fought for perfection while, deep inside, the only thing we wanted was to feel loved. In Jesus' words we find a response to our crisis of meaning. Our ego plays some dirty tricks on us by preventing us from being as good as we would like to. At times we may not see the light. St. Juliana of Norwich , the English mystic of the fourteenth century, had a revelation, heard Jesus’ message, and wrote: «All will go well, everything will go well».

Jesus' proposal —«Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...» (Mt 11:29)— implies following his benevolent style of life (to wish good to everybody) and his heart’s humility (virtue referring to keep our feet on the ground for only the divine grace can make us ascend). To be a disciple demands our accepting Jesus' yoke, while remembering his yoke is «good» and his burden is «light». When Jesus says that his yoke is easy, he means that despite appearances (narrow gate, rough road) his way is exactly what we seek, precisely what our hearts hunger for. Saint Augustine , who tried every other avenue first, paraphrased Jesus famously when he observed in his famous book Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” In the end, we learn this way of Jesus, not by book learning (though that can be part of it) but by studying Jesus—as reflected in the Book, and as embodied in people of faith around us. If Jesus himself seems daunting, you can catch a powerful glimpse by meeting him in a saint—Bonaventure, say, or Augustine, or Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa, or maybe some as-yet-un-canonized person you know, who maybe even lives in your house.

To live as a Christian in our present world is not such an easy thing, for we have to opt for values that go upstream. Not to get carried away by money, prestige or power demands a great effort. If we want to achieve it by ourselves, it may become an impossible task. But with Jesus everything is possible and good.

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