When Weary and Burdened
14th Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

I met a vehicular accident in the mid-70s that rendered me paralyzed from the waist down. I was confined in three hospitals in different places over eight months. When I was feeling better, I celebrated Mass every evening in a big ward. Patients in the ward, those from other wards and rooms and their watchers came to participate. After Mass, I visited other patients who could not come to Mass. They gladly welcomed me as well as confided in me not only because I was a priest but also because they could identify with me - I was in the same boat with them.

One evening, I noticed that one regular Mass-goer who had advanced cancer was not present. After Mass, her mother approached me and told me that her daughter, a former teacher, was already cursing God because of her extreme pains. I then asked to be brought to her. I talked with her and asked why she was not at Mass that evening. Weakly, she told me of her intense pains. I then suggested that instead of cursing God as her mother told me she was doing, to offer her pains out of her love for Him instead.

Almost immediately after saying this, I was startled by her anguished cry of pain. I thought to myself, "There she goes. She is going to curse God again." But to my surprise, I heard her say, "My God, I offer all my pains to you because I love you."

The following night, I did not see her at Mass again. When I asked about her, I was told that she was brought home that morning and she died on the way. Sad as the news was, it made me happy in a sense because of what transpired the night before. For I was positive that she continued to offer her pains to God to the end. I was sure that God had profusely rewarded her.

We may not suffer as much as this lady did. But there are many things that make us suffer, weary and burdened. There are the burdens of responsibility that come from being a parent, manager, worker, being jobless or a student. There are the burdens of being rejected, sick, widowed or separated from one's spouse. There are the burdens of looking after a retarded child, an addicted son or daughter, a crippled spouse or old parents. Etc., etc.

Often, we allow our burdens to overcome us instead of us overcoming them. When we are at the end of our rope, we may exclaim, "Is there no end to these burdens? I am just plain tired. I have had enough!"

Jesus Himself was no stranger to suffering. As early as during His public ministry in Galilee, He met with initial failure. Perhaps He expected that those who had been educated in the Word of God - "the wise and the learned" - would be the first to recognize God's Word when they heard it. Jesus was frankly disappointed. But there was a learning in this failure. He learned that His Father overlooked "the wise and the learned" in favor of "the simple and little ones" - the farmhands, shepherds, donkey-drivers, tax collectors, etc., who just could not leave their work and carry out the many heavy burdens imposed by their religious leaders. For this reason, they did not count. They were not even allowed to pray in the synagogue. Yet to Jesus' surprise, they were the ones who were most receptive of His teachings.

Jesus has a special invitation to us who suffer and are weary and burdened as we have heard in today's gospel reading (Mt. 11: 25-30): "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Just as Jesus found peace in the Father amidst His failures in His Galilean ministry, He is now telling us that with God's help, we too can find our rest in Him amidst our heavy burdens. This, if we see the hand of God in the things happening to us. He is also telling us that we can even make our sufferings redemptive if we join these to His passion and death.

Moreover, in inviting us to come to Him and find our rest in Him, Jesus is telling us that we have to acknowledge our dependence on His Father. Thus we have to learn to "let go" of our burdens, worries and anxieties and entrust them to God. For if we "let go," we will experience what Jesus had said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden light" and "I will give you rest."

However, let not our dependence upon God mean abdicating our responsibilities. In this regard, we may make our own the saying: "I will do my best and let God do the rest." This way we are telling God, "Lord, now that I have done everything that I need to do, I leave everything in your hands." When we sincerely do this, we will be pleasantly surprised that our burdens do become lighter.

Let us pray that we will learn to see the hand of God in everything that is happening to and in us and put our trust completely in Him. For what father can look at his weary and burdened children and do nothing for them? Definitely, not God our Father.