In his Chrism Mass homily to the priests of Rome on April 2, Pope Francis spoke about the weariness which naturally priests can experience. He himself admitted that he reflects upon and prays regarding this weariness often especially when he also is tired. However, the Pope speaks of this weariness in a positive fashion as one that can be "a good and healthy tiredness," when dealt with in the proper way.
Weariness is something that every human being experiences. Regardless of our vocation or age in life, we all feel weary from the occupations that we are involved in as well as from the difficulties that burden us. Parents know very well the weariness that affects them in taking care of their children while attending to a myriad of matters. There is no getting away from weariness in life. However, as Pope Francis told the priests of Rome, some weariness can be a good and healthy aspect of life. In fact, it can bring a joy which comes only from the grace of God. What parents do not feel a sense of joy and peace upon putting their child to sleep after a very hectic day when they know how much they have given to their child and what a difference it will make in the child's life. As the Pope expressed, weariness can manifest itself in the smile of parents’ rejoicing in their children or grandchildren.
Jesus felt weariness on several times in the Gospel. We read of Him going away by Himself to spend time in prayer. However, on these occasions the crowds always find Him and come to Him to be healed and to be taught. Jesus never turned from them but responded to their needs and found energy in their presence. It is good for us to reflect upon the reality of our Lord becoming tired in His human nature and of His legitimate need to find rest especially in prayer. However, it is also good for us to reflect upon the reality of His responding to the needs of those who came to Him and of the joy and renewal which it gave to Him.
We know that all weariness and feeling tired does not come from spending our energy in positive ways. Many times the burdens of life, illness and frustrations cause weariness. However, even here, we turn to the Lord who is the only one who is able to comfort us at these times. This was always the way Jesus dealt with those who came to Him with difficult situations. His words, "come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30). This invitation of our Lord fully reveals His knowledge of our troubling situations as well as His merciful desire to heal them through His grace. Remembering these words at difficult times gives us a rest from our weariness which can come from no other place.
The Pope reminds us that we have another intercessor in times of weariness who leads us to the Lord. It is our Blessed Mother, Mary. In his Chrism Mass homily, the Pope expressed, "Know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is well aware of this tiredness and she brings it straight to the Lord. As our Mother, she knows when her children are weary, and this is her greatest concern. ‘Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards… .’ Whenever we draw near to her, she says to us: I am here with you, I am your mother (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). And to her Son she will say, as she did at Cana, 'they have no wine' " (Jn 2:3).
Pope Francis also speaks of another cause of weariness which comes from satan. The Pope has been very persistent in his emphasis on the reality of satan’s influence within our lives. Giving into the distortion of the devil does not bring the happiness with which the evil one tempts us, but causes us to lose the joy which only God can give. Sin truly makes us weary and can bring us into the depths of despair. Pope Francis emphasizes that we are "not to let our guard down before the depths of iniquity, before the mockery of the wicked. In these situations of weariness, the Lord says to us: 'have courage! I have overcome the world!' (Jn 16:33). The word of God gives us strength."
Pope Francis has called for a special Jubilee Year of Mercy which will begin on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On the occasion of the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, just recently celebrated, he put forth the official document of the Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordae Vultus, The Face of Mercy. In this document, the Pope gives a thorough catechesis on the centrality of mercy within our faith as well as a specific program for the Year of Mercy. One of the emphases of the Pope is the healing power of mercy in the face of exhaustion. In this document, Pope Francis explains, "Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love He healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy... ." Indeed, it is God's mercy that lifts us out of our weariness and exhaustion in every situation.
God is rich in mercy and it is that mercy which gives us rest in any weariness. May we find that rest by letting go of ourselves and trusting more fully in the Lord and His love. By doing the work He has entrusted to us, we fulfill His will and in this is our peace.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
April 24, 2015