Monday, 12 March 2012

When the World Feels Heavy: The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

There is a certain anxiety that comes with reading the newspaper and discussing with others the situation of the world. I often experience the angst of knowing that so many are suffering, and there is so little I can do. Many a time, I feel like Atlas, with the weight of the world upon my shoulders. Other times, I feel numb.

This past week has been rather eventful. Every event heightened my sense of responsibility for the well-being of those who are suffering. This heightened responsibility seemed to echo the magis, the more. “What more can I do for my suffering brothers and sisters?” is a reverberation of, “What more can I do for God?” I was seized by the question, but I found no answer. Be it facilitating an event on immigration in Canada; participating in talks with a government official about the relationship between Canada and Colombia; working as a translator for a group of Mexican activists and human right defenders; or attending a International Women’s Day event highlighting the voice of women in Africa. The question only became more urgent; it was impregnated with new meanings and depth. With so many people in need in the world, what can I do? Where should I start?

It is in these moments when I palpably feel the burden of my long formation as a Jesuit. “There is so much I could do if I was out there working.” This was in my mind and heart all week long, and I brought it to the Lord at Mass on Thursday. I prayed that the Lord would help me make sense of my thoughts and my overwhelming desire to help right now. In my heart I carried Yolanda, the Mexican mother, turned activist, who lost her son due to the corruption and violence that is afflicting Mexico. I also thought of women in Kenya and Nigeria who are victims of gender-related persecution. I thought of the indigenous people in Colombia who are suffering because of free trade agreements. I brought them all, and a few others, to the Altar of the Lord as my offering, as my gift. “Take them, Lord, these brothers and sisters who are broken and need healing and peace. Transform their lives. Help us to transform the structures of sin and oppression that make them captives. Help me to be a witness of the Resurrection.”

As I knelt before the Altar, having offered my brothers and sisters as an oblation, I felt empowered by the words of the preface: “Fulfilling Your will and gaining for You a Holy people, He stretched out His hands as He endured His Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the Resurrection.” It all made sense. Breaking the bonds of death is connected to the manifestation of the Resurrection. I took my vows as a response to the gift of God, as an identification with Christ, with His Death and Resurrection. As an act of love, the vows are a three-fold expression of a single ‘yes’ to a life of love and service to God and to His people. I manifest to the Resurrection through my life as a Jesuit.

God was helping me understand my responsibility for my brothers and sisters within the context of my religious life. If I embrace my brothers and sisters as His people and I carry them in my heart, God will help me manifest the Resurrection to them. It is only through Christ, who is my strength, that I can make myself available for those in need. This availability happens in my daily commitment to my vows. The more I open my heart to the Heart of Jesus, the more I find the freedom I need to live my vows. The more I live my vows faithfully, the more I experience the freedom to love, serve and carry God’s people in my heart and to the Heart of Jesus.

When I am mindful that it all begins and ends with Jesus, and it is only in the context of my relationship with Him and in my steadfast experience of the vows, the weight of the world and so many other questions are lifted off my shoulders. And so, today, Jesus’ promise rings true more than ever: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). In his book The Gift of Peace (one of my favourite books; highly recommended), the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin from Chicago commented on this passage. He said that a yoke usually joins a pair of oxen as a team. It is as though Jesus is telling us, “Walk alongside me; learn to carry the burdens by observing how I do it. If you let me help you, the heavy labour will seem lighter.” If I walk alongside Jesus, my burden will be lighter, and I will be strengthened by Him to help my brothers and sisters carry their burdens. This is my vocation. This is my joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Let His joy comfort you; let Him help you carry your load.

1 comment:

  1. " The joy of the Lord is my Strength", I enjoyed a lot reading your blog.