By Nimmi Candappa
Seeing the suffering endured by people in Ukraine over the last month, many of us might be feeling helpless, affected by the war but unable to alleviate the suffering of those involved. We can feel this in a very personal way with family and close friends – knowing they are suffering but not knowing how to help them.
Over the Lenten period, we have been looking at the three points St Eugene identified in encouraging his community to “attain the perfection of your vocation”. We looked at how “considering only God” and “being of one will for the good” can help us grow in holiness. In this last fortnight of Lent, we consider the last point – “carry each other’s burdens”.
We have songs and sayings like “he’s not heavy he’s my brother”, “no (one) is an island” and a “problem shared is a problem halved” that remind us of the importance of being there for another. Created to live as community, we benefit from having around us those that understand and support us.
When we carry each other’s burden, we are unified in spirit. We are on their side, companions on a journey. We can be reminded that we are Christ’s hands and feet, ready to share in the burden. The way we do this can be critical to how comforted and supported the other feels. We carry each other’s burden through compassion, and a desire to lessen the burden, but most importantly, to understand the other’s struggle. When we seek to understand the one who is going through a trial, we make the burden lighter. When we seek to understand, we are able to sit with the burden, not jump to solutions too quickly, and the other can feel accompanied in the trial rather than a ‘problem’ to be solved.
We can also benefit from carrying another’s burden. In the same way, Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry His cross, was no doubt changed by the experience, we too are likely to grow in holiness as a result. Our heart might be opened towards another, softened by the trial. When we intercede through prayer for the other, we are also gaining in the effects of the prayer. In sacrificing our peace and personal contentment to take on their problem as though ours, we become Christ-like, who not only shares our burdens but took on all of our sins.
During this last fortnight of Lent, let us look for ways to share in the troubles of others, resisting the desire to protect ourselves from their difficulties in order to maintain our peace. We achieve this only with the help of God. By considering God in every situation we face, we can stay focussed on looking for outcomes that are for the good of all, be united, of one will. We look for ways to alleviate suffering of the other. Thus, burdens can be halved, self-focus eclipsed by love, creating a united approach which can allow a greater awareness of God. Perfecting us in our individual vocation.