Carrying another’s burdens

I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately.  And, why, you might ask, would I post about forgiveness the day before Thanksgiving?  If you’re like me, you probably find yourself encountering all kinds of family-linked-emotions around Thanksgiving time . . . and, also if you’re like me, sometimes that means dealing with forgiveness of past or present hurts.  Anyway, this morning during Mass the picture below popped into my mind:  I first came across this picture in a commentary on Matthew by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (see Books to Read tab above).  I love this picture because Jesus and Symon of Cyrene look so alike.  It’s speaks to me so much of how much Christ took on our humanity, our likeness.  But what struck me this morning in Mass is how apt a portrait this is of forgiveness.  When we truly forgive someone, we decide, in our heart of hearts–despite however we may be feeling–to carry his/her burdens (cf. Gal 6.2).  We become Simon of Cyrene to them and to Christ in them.  We help them to carry their poverty . . . which has met us in our poverty. (That’s usually why there is a need for forgiveness.) Another beautiful aspect of the depiction above is that Christ and Simon have their arms wrapped around each other.  When we truly forgive we wrap our arms around Christ in the other person . . . and His are wrapped around us in return.

Maybe you’ve already had the grace to forgive, but you have trouble with the “forgetting” part.  (That’s where I get tripped up so often.) Again, we can decide to be Simon of Cyrene.  Every time that past hurt comes up, we can decide to continue to walk side by side with that person in our life.  It may be at a physical distance, but close-in-proximity in our hearts.   Of course, this all takes the grace of God, the mercy of God, and the sure knowledge of how many times He has been that Simon of Cyrene for us, carrying much, much more weight of the cross than we every deserve.  From the Office of Readings for today’s commemoration of the martyr, Andrew Dung-Lac: “Our Master bears the whole weight of the cross, leaving me only the tiniest, last bit” (from a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh sent to the students of the Seminary of Ke-Vinh in 1843).

Just a further thought: sometimes that “other” person in need of forgiveness is ourselves. . . .

Let us, this Thanksgiving, beg Him for this grace, this profound grace of forgiveness, so that we may encounter Christ in every person we need to forgive.  May you each have a very, very blessed Thanksgiving.  I thank God for each of you.

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