When I was young growing up in Colorado, our family spent many hours outdoors skiing, hiking, camping, and just about anything we could enjoy in the mountains. As a boy all I was responsible for during these excursions was myself. I didn’t have to carry anything but myself. I didn’t have to watch anything but myself. And I have to be honest it was pretty fun….until I got older.
When I was a young adult working as a youth director, still enjoying the outdoors, I helped to establish the Boy Scout program at the Church and returned to the outdoors at least once a month hiking, camping, skiing, horseback riding. This time however I had to carry my own supplies. I learned very quickly that a well designed backpack was crucial. Without it I would find myself bent half over with more than fifty pounds on my back. In a few short yards I was tired and definitely not having fun.
Our spiritual life can often be the same as hiking in the mountains. If we don’t have the proper tools, or worse don’t use the tools we have, we find ourselves bent over under the weight of our daily struggles. In the Gospel of Luke we hear of a woman who suffered just like this for eighteen years, “and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, ‘Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.’ And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” (Luke 13.11-13)
Sometimes we can feel bent over like this woman unable to “get out from under the pressures of life,” whether those pressures are financial or emotional or physical. Christ is calling us today to come to Him and His Church so we can use the tools He has given to us so we can properly carry the burdens of life. But just like a proper backpack when we are hiking, we have to be willing to use the tools the Church has to offer – prayer, fasting, almsgiving (charity), Holy Communion, Holy Confession, house blessings, Bible study. The tools of the Church are offered to us; it’s up to us to use them!