14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – A
Life is a riddle and mystery, a burden and tragedy, a gift and wonder, and many others: depending on which window we are looking through. Science and religion and many other disciplines have offered help to humanity in search for the meaning of life amidst its complexities and idiosyncrasies. In his book “Man's Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl, chronicling his experiences as an inmate in the Auschwitz concentration camp, thought of identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then constantly imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future and the thought of a beloved affected his longevity. St. Maximillian Kolbe who was in the same concentration camp found the meaning of life by offering himself in exchange for freedom of a fellow inmate.
Maybe none of us will ever experience the horror of a concentration camp but we have experienced bits and pieces of the burdens of life. It could be a burden when a loved one has disability or a difficult sickness or a terminal illness; when we are not able to meet up with the basic necessities of life; when our families lack proper housing and food; when unfortunate tragedies happen unexpectedly! Some of these burdens are long lasting while others are short-lived. So the question is: How do we cope in such situations when life brings us to a very long tunnel of endless misfortunes?
Finding no meaning in one’s struggles and no way out in the dark tunnel, some enter into depression or despondency, while others give up so easily by ending up one’s life. On the other hand Jesus offers hope: “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.” In other words, it is Jesus who offers the true meaning of life. Without this meaning, life is like a bubble that bursts into thin air and ends to nowhere.
Jesus does not promise us a rose garden; he does not promise a burden-free life but rather he says “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Christianity is not a fairy tale religion which has a free pass for the burdens of life; Christians are not exempted from pains! In fact those who follow Jesus have more crosses and trials as we see in the lives of the saints. So what’s the point when these burdens remain? St. Paul in the second reading reminds us: “You are not in the flesh, you are in the spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” It means that we have a companion to help us carry the burdens of life; that we are not alone in our struggles. Jesus is a friend who is always there as a light unto our feet when life brings us to a tunnel of darkness and confusion.
What is the difference between an atheist and a Christian who both wake up in the morning? An atheist sees the sun and declares it a beautiful day; a Christian sees the light and is awed by a new creation. What is the difference at the end of their lives? Both of them are going to a journey: A dying atheist looks forward to the annihilation of his consciousness into the unknown; a dying Christian looks forward to a fullness of life awaiting for him in the bosom of God.