A preliminary note; The annual Catholic Family Sharing Appeal which supports diocesan ministries including the Mass seen on television and available on social media is beginning. I encourage you to review the brochure that families will soon receive in the mail or visit the diocesan website and then prayerfully consider how you might help our diocesan family through these ministries. I am appreciative of your generosity in the past and in this year’s appeal. Prayer of course is essential and priceless. Please pray for our diocese and for me.
“Is not man’s life on earth drudgery? . . . I am filled with restlessness.” So declares Job in our first reading. It might describe some of us in February, the shortest and seemingly the longest month of the year. We have had several nice days and some very cold ones. I was traveling this week. We were grateful for the clear roads until late in the afternoon we encountered rain which turned to ice which invited blowing snow. That is the drudgery of February weather. Yet the days contain a bit more light which is a sign of hope for the spring that surely will come.
Job had other reasons to be down and wonder if he would see happiness again. Without apparent reason, he had suffered loss of all his possessions, the sudden deaths of his children, and physical afflictions. Our restlessness comes from pressures at work or home, dealing with little annoyances or life threatening injustices, concern about paying the bills, the incivility and violence in our culture. It could also come from sickness, aging, and loneliness. In our down times we wonder and we worry.
Imagine Peter’s mother-in-law when on her sick bed Peter showed up with his friends and the revered Jesus. She might have thought: “Peter, why now when I don’t feel well?” There is something instructive in how Jesus dealt with the situation. He went over to her; he did not keep his distance even though she had a fever. He grasped her hand; he was not afraid to touch her. He helped her up; he offered support, someone to lean on. She responded to his healing presence by immediately serving others. That is how he can help us and we as lights of Christ can help others whatever makes them or us restless. The fact is that life contains some drudgery; we cannot escape human frailty. Yet life also includes many blessings one of which is the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus who comes to us, touches us, heals us, helps us up.
Suffering and sickness are facts of life. Often we seek instant relief: call 911 and expect the difficulty to be removed immediately. Pain relieving potions for the body, some effective, many not, are billion dollar industries. The quick fix of pills has resulted in the opioid crisis that has resulted in not relief but death for too many. That fact is that many physical miseries which plagued past generations are now gone with the tremendous strides in medicine, science, technology and communication. The church encourages continued development of cures and treatments in morally sound ways that respect life from conception to natural death. Yet with all the scientific progress that has been made which has extended life spans, we remain restless in our souls.
Saint Therese of Avila said that “the world is a bad night in a bad inn”. Her antidote for coping was a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ through Mary.
Someone described Jesus as the tears of God, tears for us in our restlessness. Jesus’ humanity allows us to know that God understands. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he agonized. Jesus’ teaches us to see how we can cope with it all. “Father, not my will but yours be done,” he humbly prayed as well.
He took suffering and made it holy, using it to point us to the Father whose love sent him to heal us and give us hope. When we are tempted to despair, to see life as drudgery or fearsome, a bad night in a bad inn, we need only look at the cross which reflects the depth of God’s love from which can come perspective, strength and hope.
A woman was napping on the beach when she was awakened by the sound of crying. Before her was a little girl about 5. The woman went to her, “are you lost? Here take my hand, we’ll find the lifeguard.” “No,” the little girl cried out, backing away. The woman tried again. “Just walk beside me, we’ll find the lifeguard who will find your family.” They walked along with the girl keeping her distance. The lifeguard was happy to see them because a search had been under way for the lost little girl. “Her name is Elizabeth,” he said.
A young man came running down the beach. “Is that your daddy,” the woman asked. “No,” shouted the little girl. The man bent down and put his arm around her. “Elizabeth, are you all right?” She threw sand in his face. He brushed it aside while continuing to caress her. Suddenly she gave him a big hug and began to cry. He lifted her up and carried her away. They stopped by the water as he washed the sand from his face. She splashed him, he splashed her. They both laughed. She found happiness again and felt safe, in the company of her father.
We can become like Elizabeth on occasion, lost, frightened and angry. God our Father loves us through it all. God is patient with us, forgives our weaknesses, comforts us and helps us to laugh again, feel safe again. But we must allow him to come close to us, in a way put his arm around us through prayer, the sacraments and his instruments of his love, one another through His Church.
Today’s psalm sings it so beautifully: “Praise the Lord who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. . . He calls each by name.” He calls each of us by name and offers to forgive us, heal us, help us up when we are down, if we allow him to do so. Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted, heals us.