St. Christopher was an extremely tall man who was in search of someone powerful to serve. Once when he was traveling in a forest, Christopher found an old hermit who told him all about Christ. When the hermit had finished, Christopher asked to be converted and baptized. Following his baptism, Christopher asked the hermit how he should serve God. The hermit answered that Christopher should become a hermit and devote his life to prayer and fasting. This didn’t suit Christopher very well. He enjoyed the company of others, had trouble staying still enough to pray, and was so tall that he constantly had to eat to keep from being famished. When Christopher objected that the life of a hermit wouldn’t really suit him, the hermit suggested that he find another way to serve Christ that would be more suited to his talents.
St. Christopher thought long and hard about this as he walked back toward town through the forest. Suddenly he happened on a deep river with powerful currents. It was then that a marvelous idea came to him. Christopher decided that he would live by the river and help travelers across. This way, he wouldn’t have to stay still, he could talk to all kinds of different people, and he could put his gift of tallness to use. So that is what he did.
One night, a young boy approached St. Christopher and asked him for help crossing the river. Christopher happily obliged, and lifted the small child up onto his shoulders. He was light as a pillow. So Christopher began to cross the river with the boy on his back. But as Christopher progressed further and further into the river, the boy became heavier and heavier. By the time, Christopher was midstream, he was really struggling. His knees were buckling beneath the weight. By the time he was within steps of the shore, he had more weight on his back than he had ever carried. He was grunting and gritting his teeth as he trudged the last few steps, trying desperately not to collapse.
Once St. Christopher and the boy were safely out of the water, Christopher asked the boy why he had grown so heavy as he labored to set him down. The voice he heard was not the voice of a boy though. It was the voice of a man. But not just any man. It was the voice of Christ himself, who explained to Christopher that when he was carrying him, he was carrying the weight of the entire world.
With this Christ vanished and St. Christopher knelt and praised God. For he had been able to serve Christ using his very special gifts.
St. Christopher is known among many things as the patron saint of travelers. Though, because of my line of work, I think of St. Christopher as the patron saint of youth pastors. We youth pastors know what it is like to carry a child across the river of adolescence and to feel their weight increase, hopefully as they grow more and more in the likeness of Christ. This parable teaches us that not everyone is called to the same Christian lifestyle. We all serve God in our own unique ways. It also teaches us that when we carry Christ with us, it is the heaviest burden we can bear. However we find to serve using our unique gifts, we should serve eagerly and joyfully. No matter how great the burden seems, we should serve each person as if we were serving Christ himself. Because, in truth, we are.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…