14 July 2016
Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
We have a lot of demands put on us—maybe not as much as in the past, but our society still has expectations of us. One expectation is that we have a job—no laying around, being lazy. Another expectation is that we should be successful, in terms of wealth and even social standing. Even in such places as the church and the parish, there are expectations that we’re going to contribute—financially, spiritually, materially.
The Saint we remember today, Kateri Tekakwitha, had the demands of her own culture to deal with. As the daughter of a Mohawk father and an Algonquin mother, she was expected to be married and follow the Native American traditions of her people. And so, it caused quite a headache for everybody when she didn’t want to get married, and when she converted to Catholicism. She didn’t stop being a Mohawk Indian, but she lived her life as a Catholic, and as a bride of Jesus Christ.
The demands of Jesus are light; all he asks, really, is that we love him by letting him love us. That’s all he asks. It’s hardly what we’d call a “demand.” But what makes it hard is when the rest of our lives demand so much from us: our time, our energy, our conformity to social ideals, our attention, and so on. And when that happens, the demands of Jesus can seem very heavy. When the demands of society weigh us down, then finding time and energy to pray with Jesus, or to just be with him in quiet becomes a burden.
And so, the challenge, it seems, is to let go of the demands we think are important, and to focus on what’s really important. Saint Kateri put God first in her life. She lived her everyday life, but God was number one for her. And it wasn’t easy for her—she was often shunned by her community for her convictions about God and faith. But the so-called “burden” of loving God kept everything in perspective.
We have a lot of demands put on us. But we also have control over the demands we let affect us. And so, like Saint Kateri, may we first of all take on the “task that is easy, the burden that is light.” May we remember that God asks very little. But what he asks is everything: to love him, by letting him love us. That’s a demand we can all try to measure up to.