Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6, 2)
Jesus demands very much. He is, however, not one of those who are very demanding when dealing with the little and poor folks, and yet are very lenient with themselves and with the great and the wealthy. He treats with compassion and understanding those who are shunned by society and absolutely disagrees with tyrannical rulers. He emphatically denounces moreover those religious leaders who lay on people’s shoulders heavy burdens that they themselves do not bear.
Yes, Jesus is very demanding. When he calls a person, he bids him or her, “Come and die” (Bonhoeffer). He imposes a yoke, a burden, on the invited. But he only demands that we, who claim to follow him, carry what he himself has had on his shoulder. The Son of Man, meek and humble of heart, expects us to become servants and slaves, in imitation of him, who has come not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for all.
Through the example he gives us, Jesus grants us relief, lest we feel overworked and overburdened and so that we may experience that his yoke is really easy and his burden light. He encourages us to run and persevere in the race toward full glory that is unattainable without ignominious self-denial. He indicates that “power is made perfect in weakness.” He time and again makes known to us, who find it difficult to understand prophecies, that the final outcome will be glorious for him, the Suffering Servant, and for those who share in his passion and death.
So then, Jesus empowers us to suffer with him and to enter into his glory. His grace is sufficient for us. He is not like some of today’s high-ranking business executives who guarantee themselves their $15 million or more in annual salary, their compensation in kind, their stocks and their golden parachutes. Not a few CEOs demand from their employees, in the manner of the Pharaoh of Moses’ time, maximum production with minimum provision.
In contrast, Jesus provides us with everything. He educates us, for example. He brings us out of the folly that mistakes human beings’ authentic destiny for something not so wholly disinterested as the so-called “manifest destiny” that, not infrequently, settles for “Might makes right.” He leads us to his unfathomable and hard to grasped wisdom, but infallible and necessary for right living and for eternal salvation, namely, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Made flesh in Jesus, such wisdom can, with the Holy Spirit intervening, be heard, seen, looked upon and touched.
Above all, Jesus supplies us with maximum provision, offering himself as the food of grown up human beings, not so that we may change him into ourselves, but rather so that he may change us into himself (St. Augustine). There is no way for those who thus truly live in Jesus Christ by the death of Jesus Christ and die in Jesus Christ by the life of Jesus Christ, to cite St. Vincent de Paul (Coste I, 295), not to have compassion for the poor and not advocate for the enslaved. Nor is there a way for them not to condemn all forms of slavery, authoritarianism, tribalism, favoritism, exclusivism, sexism, clericalism and careerism. There is no way either that they do not embark upon and finish what Jesus proposes and exemplifies in the Eucharist as well.