One Sunday before Mass started he left a suitcase by the lectern where he was to deliver his sermon.
At the appropriate time he looked at the children sitting up front in church and asked: “Who knows what it means to have a chip on your shoulder?”
A few hands were raised high. He pointed to a young girl who said: “It means moaning all the time and feeling hard done by.”
“Exactly …” said Father Ignatius, “how clever of you. It means feeling over-sensitive and badly treated. And some people I know don’t just have one solitary chip on their shoulder, but they have a whole super-sized packet of chips and a large hamburger and a milk-shake too!”
The congregation laughed.
“And that’s the problem you see …” continued the priest, “many people in this world live life carrying heavy baggage from the past rather than rejoice in what God is doing for them right now.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a moment and looked down at the suitcase by the lectern.
“Which brings me to this item here …” he said, “I need two strong men to help me please.”
He looked up and waited until two men left their pews and joined him by the lectern. He asked one of them to carry the suitcase a few paces down the center aisle. It was fairly heavy, but the man managed it. He then asked the second man to return the suitcase to him; which he did with some difficulty.
“I think we have shown here how difficult it is to carry such heavy baggage with you for the rest of your life,” said Father Ignatius as the two men returned to their seats.
“Imagine carrying this with you always. You’ll soon get tired and it will certainly slow you down. Wouldn’t it be great to get rid of it altogether?
“Let’s see what’s inside.”
He opened the suitcase and revealed a number of bricks. On each one he had stuck a label which he read out loud:
“Now these heavy bricks represent all the troubles and worries, or excuses even, which we may carry with us throughout our lives. Let’s see what they say …
“This one reads ‘it’s my up-bringing that holds me back, I grew up in a broken family when my parents divorced, it’s scarred me for life’
“And this one says ‘I left school with no education, my parents didn’t send me to a good school, what chance have I got?’
“Let’s see this brick here … ‘my health has always been poor, I can’t help it,’
“As for this one, I like this one, it says ‘I must have been born unlucky, nothing ever works out for me! I’m destined to fail.’
“There’s a few more bricks here,” continued Father Ignatius, “you can read them afterwards if you wish.”
He put the bricks down by the suitcase and looked gently at the congregation.
“Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not in any way making light of people’s difficulties. I do accept that some people have genuine and very difficult obstacles to overcome every day of their lives. And I am often inspired by their fortitude and great Faith as they go through life despite such hardship …
“The problem I’m addressing now is where people, for a variety of reasons, still cling to something in their past as a crutch or prop to explain away their present state in life.
“And they continue to carry this heavy weight, real or imagined, like this suitcase here beside me. Their issue could be their up-bringing, their education, their background … or a great hurt they suffered in the past, which still gnaws deep inside them and goes unforgiven.
“It could be anything … a heavy weight which they carry for ever because they just can’t let go.
“This heavy weight slows them down throughout life and hinders their progress towards God.
“Let us have the courage to let go the heavy baggage in our lives.
“Let us trust God to help us as we go on in life.
“Jesus carried a heavy Cross on His way to Calvary. He asked us to take up our Cross and follow Him.
“Let not the weight of your Cross crush you down; but instead use it to climb up to Heaven to Christ’s welcoming arms.”
EXCERPT FROM "TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP"