Carrying your buddy's burdens, too...

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Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
(Scriptures for today's Mass) 

Audio for homily

You’d think that if you’d ever been branded, 
you’d remember it and you’d have a scar on your body,
the mark of the brand.

But not always so.

In a real, sacramental way,
each of us is “branded” when we are baptized.
The priest or the deacon says to the one about to be baptized: 
In the name of the Church I claim you for Christ our Savior
by the sign of his cross which I trace on your forehead
and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.
This branding is painless and invisible:
the branding iron is the gentle touch of flesh upon flesh,
but the sacrament brands our souls as belonging to Christ,
claimed for Christ by the Church.

Imagine for a moment
that the Cross traced on our foreheads at baptism did leave a mark.

You know what it’s like to walk through Ash Wednesday
with a smudged cross on your forehead.
Imagine walking through life,
your forehead visibly branded by the Cross of Jesus,
and everyone knowing, all the time, that you’d been claimed by,
that you belong to Christ.

Of course there’s another sign of being claimed
that many of us wear and that’s a wedding ring.

A band of precious metal that sets apart
and marks the one who wears it as taken,
claimed by another with a promise of faithful love
– until death.

Even in an age and culture in which divorce is so prevalent,
we all know what a wedding band is intended to mean,
what it’s meant to signal to those who wear it and to all who see it.

A wedding ring is easily noticed
but not so that baptismal Cross invisibly traced on our foreheads
but indelibly imprinted on our souls:
the Cross of Jesus by which we’ve been claimed and saved
and by which we’re called to live our lives.

Or as Jesus himself put it in the gospel today:
the Cross which each of us is charged to take up, every day and carry.

What does that mean?  What cross are we expected
to take up and carry every day to follow Jesus?

We all have crosses to carry:
personal and family struggles; physical and emotional pain;
loss and grief;  discouragement, disappointment
and difficulties of all kinds.

But everybody carries those crosses, not just Christians.
The Cross Jesus asks us to take up is not only a burden,
it’s also a dying, dying to one’s self so that others might live.
Which is what Jesus did for us.

Let’s take another look at wedding rings.

In a Christian marriage both spouses carry
their own individual burdens every day.
And as a couple, they carry some,
even many of those burdens, together.
But as lovers, each makes the effort to carry the other’s burdens
to lighten the load the beloved bears.
That’s what Christ did for us and what he asks us to do for one another.

To carry the burdens that belong to others, and to do that out of love.

Christians are those
who not only bear their own life’s burdens every day
but who also give of themselves and reach out, and take up
and carry the crosses others bear as well as their own.

As a husband or wife finds joy
in lessening the burden the spouse carries,
so are Christians to find life in helping to carry others’ burdens
even while weighted down with their own;
as Christ did for us in bearing on his shoulders
the cross that was truly ours,
he bore the weight of our failure to love one another,
our failure to carry one another’s burdens, one another’s cross.

Such is the Lord’s word to us today:
if we want to save our lives, we need to lose them in serving others;
we will find our peace, find our joy in losing ourselves
in carrying one another’s burdens.

Who’s waiting in your life, and in mine,
who’s waiting for you and me to help carry
the burdens, the crosses they bear?

We began our prayer today
by tracing on our bodies the sign of the Cross,
by which we were claimed for Christ in baptism.
We will end our prayer today by branding ourselves
again with the same Cross.

But before we do that, while gathered in the shadow of the Cross,
we will share in the life Christ promised to those
who carry their share of the Cross every day
and share in carrying others’ burdens, too.

We’ll be nourished here by the sacrifice of Christ’s love,
in the sacrament of this altar, this table where he invites us
to lay down our burdens for a while
and be refreshed by the life he laid down for us on his Cross. 


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