If the Lord Gives a Burden

(Homily for Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Bottom line: If the Lord gives a burden, he also gives the help to carry it out.

Many of you know I was in Peru the past few weeks. Perhaps it was because of a particularly hair-raising ride in a taxi, but while I was there, I had a disturbing dream. I dreamed that I died and when I arrived at the gates, a Peruvian taxi driver was just ahead of me. St. Peter read through our lives and then let us both in. He showed the taxi driver his room. It was a magnificent suite with a king-size bed, giant screen TV, fully stocked bar, the works. After seeing the taxi driver's room, I was anxious to see my own. It turned out to be a tiny room with a cot and a fifty watt light bulb dangling from the ceiling. Naturally I asked St. Peter for an explanation. "Look," he said, "when you gave homilies people fell asleep. But when people rode in his taxi, they prayed."

Well, I hope this homily will encourage at least a few of you to pray so I won't get such a dingy room. For my homily this Sunday, I want to begin not in Peru, but in Rome, almost three decades ago. On August 27, 1978 - one day after his election to the papacy - Pope John Paul I made this statement: "Yesterday I went peacefully into the Sistine Chapel to vote. I did not imagine what was going to happen. When there began to be a danger for me, two of my colleagues reached out to me: 'Take courage' they said, 'If the Lord gives a burden, he also gives the help to carry it.'"*

In our Old Testament reading we hear about the people of Israel receiving a particular burden. During the reconstruction of the temple, they discovered an ancient Book of the Law. When Ezra the priest read it aloud to them, they first rejoiced, but they also wept because they knew how weak they were to obey all the Lord's commands. Nehemiah - who was the civil authority - gave them a help: he provided a meal of delicious foods and told them to eat and drink. "Do not be saddened," he said, "rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"

Jesus received the greatest burden of all. By his ministry of teaching and healing - and above all by his sacfificial death - he would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: "to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." His burden involved the salvation of every human being. Since his burden was the greatest, he received the greatest help: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..."

You and I have received a burden - obviously not as great Jesus or Pope John Paul I - or that of the people of Israel to whom the Lord gave a great burden of suffering. Even so, you or I might be tempted to walk away from our particular opportunity. I encourage you to remember the example of St. John Vianney. As a young man he undertook studies for the priesthood, but he found them extremely difficult. Moreover, he suffered from a chronic stomach problem which left him feeling weak and tired. He decided he just could not continue. His spiritual director recognized something special in John and said to him, "If you leave now, you are saying 'goodbye priesthood' and 'goodbye souls.'" Those words "goodbye souls" rang in his ears and he from that moment he devoted every ounce of his effort to that goal - the salvation of souls. For over four decades he labored in a rural village and he brought thousands to Christ.

St. John Vianney accepted a particular burden and the Lord gave him extraordinary help. You and I have also been given a burden - to bring souls to Christ. The Lord will not fail to give us the help we need.

**********

*Pope John Paul I received a particular burden. When he became pope he suffered from a heart condition which caused painful swelling of his legs, making it difficult for him to walk. In spite of this painful condition, he was known as "the smiling pope." In his book A Thief in the Night John Cornwell convincingly documents the medical incompetence which precipitated the pope's early death. There was a conspiracy to cover up the cause of his death, but it was a medical conspiracy.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Third Sunday, Year C):

2016: New Beginning: God's Plan
2013: I Do Not Belong
2010: Certainty of the Teachings
2007: If the Lord Gives a Burden
2004: Godís Weak Ones
2001: Returning to Our Roots
1998: An Historic Week

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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