How many times have you and I felt like the laws of the Church were like heavy burdens? The scriptures allow us to see more deeply into this experience.
On October 12, we read from Luke 11:
The Lord said:
“Woe to you Pharisees!
You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb,
but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.
These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
Woe to you Pharisees!
You love the seat of honor in synagogues
and greetings in marketplaces.
Woe to you!
You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”
Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply,
“Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”
And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
It seems almost comical when the scholars of the law draw attention to themselves. Without missing a beat, Jesus chastises them as well. With their words and teachings they imposed heavy burdens but did nothing to help them.
We who know the law, who know what is evil and what is good, also know what it is like to carry the burden of the “flesh.” On October 12, Paul mentions in his letter to the Galations that we know the works of the flesh. When he mentions “flesh,” he is referring to that part of us that is sinful and at war, as it were, with that better part of ourselves that wants to do God’s will.
The burden of this war can weigh us down and even crush us. Those who go to confession with the experience of confessing the same sins over and over again can really relate to this.
The scholars of the law were guilty of making these burdens heavier by failing to acknowledge the great difficulty of living according to God’s will.
Jesus, who is the chief teacher and the law giver, has every authority to impose whatever burdens he wishes upon us. Yet, he knows our weaknesses and our strengths. His deep compassion for us moves him to lift more than one finger. He allows his entire body to be lifted up on a cross to touch the hearts of every single one of us.
In this way, in the words of St. Paul, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5). Jesus lifts us up with him and helps us carry our burdens so that they do not crush us. Rather, they become occasions to lean on him.
We can also do this for others by looking for those with burdens and lending a helping hand.