Leave It to Jesus
Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on July 2-3, 2011 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY and Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30
At first I thought that they were part of the design of the red velvet robe worn by the life-sized image of Christ carrying the cross. But as I looked closely, I saw that they were trinkets of various shapes and figures: a man kneeling in prayer, a house, a heart, an arm, a leg, and something that looked like a kidney. I later found out that these tiny ornaments are called milagros and that they are pinned to the statues of saints or hung with ribbons from the images of Christ. I saw them at every sanctuary in Mexico, from the basilica of Guadalupe to the old sagrarios of Guanajuato. No saint worth his halo had a missing milagro. No shrine worth its renown was left undecorated by these symbols of devotion.
I was told that each trinket represented a favor. Those shaped like body parts were prayers for healing for, say, an injured arm or a leg debilitated by arthritis, for a bad kidney or a broken heart. Others represented the petitioner kneeling in prayer or the family member who needed help but could not make it to the shrine. Each milagro is a request for a milagro—a miracle—for God or His saint to intervene in a life burdened by ailment or affliction, for God to come into a situation that desperately needed help from a Higher Power.
I sat in that Church in Mexico and watched the poor and the powerless, the sick and the sinner, the faithful and those who are hanging by the last thread of faith, plead on their knees before the shrine of the cross-bearing Christ and pin their hopes on the hem of the His garment. It struck me how each one took the Lord at His word: they had come to Him, all who labor and are burdened (Mt. 11:28), and they laid before Him every illness, every problem, every weight that was wearing them down. They left the load of their lives to the Lord who alone promised them rest (cf. Mt. 11:28).
We do not bring milagros to this Church or pin them to the Lord’s garment. But everyone who comes here brings his own baggage, her own burden in life. We can see it in each other’s eyes. We notice how it hunches the backs of others, how it has worn out their knees, how it droops their shoulders. Whatever baggage that we have been carrying all day, we have brought it here to the One who alone can refresh us. He tells us to take instead His gentle yoke, His light burden (cf. Mt. 11:29-30), and to leave our baggage in His care. Whether we are in need of a milagro, a miracle, or just a respite from a hard-knocked life, Christ promises to take care of it, if only we leave it in His hands.