Beginning to Bear One Another’s Burdens
By: David Philippart
If it sometimes feels like the weight on the world is on your shoulders, you are not imagining it. It is. Being a baptized follower of Jesus means growing in compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer (passio, from pati) together with (cum)” another, others. Being a baptized follower of Jesus means that we come to know and then choose to share in the suffering of others, that through us God may transform that suffering into life more deeply lived, love more broadly shared. “Bear one another’s burdens,” the apostle Paul writes to the church at Galatia, and to Old Saint Patrick’s, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
On our own, such a responsibility would kill us. Thank God–thanks to God–we are not on our own in this! As members of Christ’s body through baptism, through confirmation, through eucharist, we are able to shoulder the suffering of others with spirit, with the Spirit. Oh, it still costs us. It still requires sacrifice. It even still hurts at times. But now it cannot get the best of us.
It can only bring out the best in us. We easily see evidence of our growing in compassion as a church here at Old Saint Patrick’s. Take last week, for example. We hosted Camp Jaguar for some of God’s youngest children through Frances Xavier Warde School. We collected business clothes for the Cara Program, to help those the economy would label as un-employable, succeed at their new jobs. We sent ten or so of us to Nicaragua with support both material and spiritual to build a playground for kids living in a poverty we can scarcely imagine. We invited thirty or so young adults to ponder in Hughes Hall what it means to be merciful to people who are truly guilty of crimes. And a whole bunch of us spent time with our sisters and brothers in North Lawndale over the weekend to continue Martin Luther King’s dream of fair housing. Aid to addicts, the homeless, people with various disabilities, and the poor of Africa, India, and Peru flowed from our Mary and Bill Aronin Center for Social Concerns. And every day at Mass, including Saturday’s weddings, we lifted up to God those in need. “We pray to the Lord,” the lector or priest urged, “Lord, hear our prayer!” we all insisted. And God did.
Amazingly, this river of compassion flowing from Old Saint Pat’s, like the mighty Mississippi itself, has a most modest source. If you’ve not seen the marshy trickle of water from Lake Itasca in Minnesota that becomes the earth’s fourth mightiest river, it’s hard to imagine. Similarly, all that we do to begin to bear one another’s burdens flows from God’s answers to our prayers—specifically God’s answers to what we call the “prayers of the faithful” at Mass. These prayers may seem just a simple trickle of words. But they are the beginning of a robust flood of compassion. So as we enter into our annual Season of Social Justice next Sunday, let’s look more closely at the prayers of the faithful at Mass. We’ll sing our response to each petition for the next month to enter into the intercessions more deeply. And here in The Crossroads each week during August, I’ll share parts of the story of this life-giving way we pray. O Lord, hear our prayers. And send us into the world as part of your answer!