Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
Easter everyday
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By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
April 20, 2014

    'Do not let your hearts be troubled [Jesus told them]. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. Were it not so, would I have told you I am going to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will return and take you with me. And you know the way where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'." (John 14: 1-6).
Remarkable. Remarkable that Jesus would share his intimate personal thoughts with his disciples on the night of his arrest before his crucifixion and death. Later that evening and equally surprising, Jesus' tells his Apostles, "I no longer call you servants . . . but I have called you friends, because I have told you everything my Father told me." (John 15: 15 ).

Were we to believe that Jesus faced his horrendous suffering and crucifixion as the Son of God whose powers are beyond ours – we would gravely slight his human courage. Jesus, the Son of Man, died on the cross as he decided, "I lay down my life on my own accord" he explained. (John 10: 18). We clearly then need to reconcile "the way, and the truth and the life" Jesus spoke of with his admonition, "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11: 28- 29). In light of Jesus' imminent suffering what kind of "rest" is he speaking of? He will soon be flogged, fall down several times under the weight of the cross which he carries to his crucifixion.

Jesus' 'way' of bearing burdens are replete on every page of his Gospel. He not only sought out the burdens of others but shared his own challenges with others. Only twice did Jesus suffer alone, one, in the desert at the beginning of his work tempted by Satan for forty days and, two, in Gethsemane near the end of his work he sweats blood as he prays, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." But even then angels come to console Jesus afterwards. (Mark 1: 13; Matthew 22: 42-43).

We all have burdens to bear, but God calls none of us to suffer them alone as human beings. We instinctively know this. When an infant cries the mother, father or whoever is in the house instinctively goes to comfort the child. This is the dynamic which connects heaven and earth. As strange as it may seem we are consoled when we bear the burdens of others along with our own. Remember the Boy's Town motto and image of an older brother carrying his younger brother, "He's not heavy. He's my brother." Our lives, our suffering, find purpose in the suffering of others. Jesus was ready to suffer and asked his Apostles to suffer along with him to strengthen each other. "I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16: 20-22). When husbands and wives face difficulties together they lighten each other's burden. Jesus told his disciples at least three times that he would suffer and die to encourage them to share their burdens with him.

Re-read the Gospel. On nearly every page Jesus attaches himself personally, not abstractly, to the burdens and suffering of others. In only one instance does he relieve others of their suffering at a distance, the "ten lepers [who] approached him [and] keeping their distance, they call out, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us'!" Only one of them returns to thank Jesus. For this man Jesus says, "your faith had saved you." ( cf. Luke 17: 11-19). The others were not equally blessed. More importantly, in nearly ever instance Jesus insists that those who ask for his help first talk to him and share their sufferings and eventual consolations with him. Sometimes Jesus encounters others and begins the conversation himself as he does with the woman at the well whom he asks for a drink of water and then offers her better than what she could give him, "living water" so, as she said, she would "never be thirsty" again. (John 4: 7-15). Her burden was lightened when she led Jesus to all the townspeople of Sychar, something his Apostles did not expect especially from Samaritan apostates. When Jesus sees a man crippled from birth who had waited thirty-eight years for a cure in the 'stirring' of a miraculous pool of water but never gets to the pool in time – Jesus approaches and speaks to him twice, first, when he heals the man and later when Jesus finds him to say, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you." (John 5: 14). Anyone who tries to approach Jesus no matter how inconvenient Jesus obliges the person even while traveling with crowds of other people pressing upon him as in the case of the woman who thought she could be healed by stealthily touching Jesus clothes. Jesus then asks, "Who touched me" so he could meet the woman he cured of her hemorrhaging and speak with her. ( Mark 5: 25-34 ). Or the blind man in a crowd who repeatedly shouts, "Son of David, have mercy on me!'' while others strenuously try to shut him up. (Mark 10: 48-50 ). Jesus stops and waits for the blind man to find his 'way' so he could speak with him. Jesus lightens his burden and briefly forgets about the yoke on his own shoulders when he bears the burdens of others and shares their consolation and healing relief. Jesus could have cured the sick daughter of an official who died without breaking through the din of wailing relatives to see the child, take her by the hand, raise her up alive and ask her parents to fed her. Jesus was there to share the loss of the child and the consolation of the child's recovery with her parents. (Mark 5: 22-43).

Christ accomplishes much more than what his Apostles and we appreciate – taking upon himself the sins of the world for all time, the sins of all men and women from ages past until the end of time. It was his reason for becoming man – to assume all of humanity's burdens whose brothers and sisters he became and whose adopted sons and daughters of his Father he redeemed. It remains His purpose as a man and his human relationship with us in heaven. He still carries our burdens when he meets us in the consolation of the Eucharist, the confessional and the other sacraments.

Once we understand how God operates as a man, the sooner we can follow his "way." It is the great irony of life that the heavy burdens we bear can only be lightened when we personally acknowledge the burdens of others as did Jesus. Our problem, we have become separatists, narcissists buying the lie of our supreme independence and autonomy which is the work of Satan. What would have happened if Eve when tempted by Satan had said, I have to talk to my husband first? We have become so self-absorbed with our own burdens we can not find ourselves in others' burdens as did Jesus. How often have we acknowledged, 'I didn't know' when we could have asked. Narcissism and vanity drives nearly all of our present culture, the commercials we watch on television, the internet, Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

How else will the risen Son of Man meet us on earth each day unless we daily become him in exchanging our burdens with others? Our needs with their needs. It was the last lesson Jesus taught his Apostle's before his death and resurrection at the last supper. "if I, your Lord and Teacher," Jesus said, "have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13: 14-15). Unfortunately, much of our charity today is impersonal, anonymous donations with little relief of our own burdens and the burdens of others. We need to put a face on those we help and those who help us. Easter is the kindness of a visible breathing disciple of Jesus as the Son of Man who washes feet and keeps Easter alive everyday.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

 

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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at FatherTomSays@gmail.com.

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