Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord."
These words have always brought us comfort and consolation. As a priest and a priest who is not actively serving in a parish, I find no shortage of suffering and pain. No matter where I have traveled this year, Vietnam, China, India, Italy or if I’m back in the States, I have come across people who are suffering or families who have loved ones who are facing painful situations. When we are in pain or undergoing great suffering, we want relief and we want to know what we did that was so wrong that caused us to have this terrible burden we carry. There is so many layers to our pain and suffering.
For many of us, there will be no relief to the pains and sufferings we are experiencing and there will be no explanation for the burdens we carry. We will cry, lash out in anger or frustration or maybe fall into a dark depression, shutting everyone out that comes close to us. This is not the kind of pain that a smile, a hug or even a sincere: "I love you" will take care of. And this is the kind of experience that will ultimately define us as a human being and as a follower of Jesus. No one can live this moment for us.
I have just come back from visiting a woman, wife and mother, in her sixties. Yesterday, she was placed in a hospice facility because the burden of caring for her at home had become too great. There is nothing more that medicine can do for her. I had anointed her about three weeks ago. She talked about the unbearable pain she suffers every once in a while. Yet, her smile, her banter and her stories about home life all say that she has found Someone who can help her carry her burden. The Eucharist and the Sacraments are helping her to deepen her faith in a God of Life who loves her unconditionally so she can carry those burdens and suffer those pains united to the Crucified Lord.
There is so much pain in the world today. There is personal pain, family pain, social pain, pain that we are responsible for because of bad decision and hateful attitudes and pain that we are powerless to prevent. No one escapes pain and suffering in this world. Sometimes our head aches and sometimes it’s our body and so many times it’s our heart. We cannot carry this pain by ourselves.
Jesus invites us to go beyond the physical, emotional and social pain and suffering that we are experiencing this very moment. There is no question that this requires a super-human effort, yes, a divine effort. God grants us this grace.
Our Entrance Antiphon says: "Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face." (Ps. 105, v. 3-4)
No matter at what point of our pain and suffering we turn to our God, the Jesus who takes up our burden will be there waiting for us. May it be sooner rather than later!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.