Dear People of Saint Anne,
Remember those ashes that we received on our foreheads on February 17, 2021? They were a reminder that we are mortal and that life can be hard. There has been so much weariness, so much that we would like to have lifted from our shoulders that has been deepened by these pandemic times over the last year. We are tired of hearing bad news. We are tired of the politics. We are tired of the fighting. We may even be tired of a religion that does spiritually touch our hearts.
And so here we are again. In the midst of another Lenten Season. It seems that not much changes from year to year. We struggle with the weight of the same old sins. We carry the same old burdens of resentment. We stumble over the same old regrets. And to our exhaustion and lethargy, Jesus says: Come to me all who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
When we watch Jesus go about his ministry, it becomes clear that so much of the good news that he brings involves lifting burdens from people’s shoulders. For some it is the burden of sickness. For others the burden of shame. For many it is the humiliation of self – doubt imposed upon by a religion that demands their perfection. One of the few times that we hear Jesus being truly angry is when he rails against the religious authorities when they place heavy burdens on people’s shoulders or make judgments about their worthiness to be loved. One of the reasons that Jesus grew so popular in his ministry is that he brought people a different image of God in his teaching and preaching. Jesus spoke of a God who walks beside us, who brings mercy and kindness – and in the end – a God who loves us to death. That is the image of God that Jesus brought to people.
No matter the burdens that we bear, our God is there to make them lighter. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to be weary of life, weary of the devastation of people’s lives caused by this pandemic, weary of the uphill battle of life’s sadness and weary of life’s injustice, tired of people that we love who are dying. Sometimes, we just don’t like to admit that we are tired of it all.
Sometimes, we need to tell ourselves that it’s OK to be weary of life and not to feel guilty of that reality. It’s OK not to be productive at every moment, to be doing something other than just wasting time. Time is never wasted when we allow ourselves to rest in the embrace of God through prayer and conversation with him. Let God comfort us.
When we come to the end of our ropes. When we have used all of our resources. When we don’t feel that we have the energy or the desire to go on. It takes us to that place where we want to give up and stop fighting. We place ourselves at the feet of a greater power. For us, that power is Jesus our brother – the beloved of God. Maybe we can feel so burdened because we attempt to carry our burdens all by ourselves – rather than let God help us. Perhaps God is even encouraging us to ask our brothers and sisters to help us instead of going at it alone.
It’s important not to miss the second part of the statement of Jesus. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble of heart. My yoke is easy and my burden light. In farming, a yolk was a commonly used wooden harness shared by two oxen in order to join their strength together. Jesus invites us to learn from him – and to let allow him to share and carry the weight of our burdens along with him.
What are the heavy burdens that you are carrying these days? Might those burden be sadness, health concerns, grief, living on the edge of despair, the diminishment of our dreams or the loss of a job? Let us give ourselves permission to bring our burdens to God – so we don’t have to do it alone.
In the Comfort and Peace, only the Lord can give,
Father Bernie Pietrzak.
Post Script: Monsignor John Canary’s Mission last Monday and Tuesday was simply outstanding. If you did not have time to view these two one – hour segments, they are available on the parish website. Thanks to Father Rodolfo for inviting Monsignor Canary and to Mary Jane Kurowski for the organization and setup of the Mission.