Sunday, July 02, 2006

How does God bear it? (Sunday homily)

The first reading said:
"God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice
in the destruction of the living."
And, it said: "Justice is undying."

Compare that with the state of the world,
and we have a problem.

Every day, the living are destroyed.
A car bomb in a marketplace in Iraq;
an endless civil war in Sudan or the Congo;
a drug cartel protecting its cocaine
empire in Colombia.
An abortion mill in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio.

Only a few days ago, down in Dayton,
a group of kids, out late, in a car;
it flipped over.
A teenager died.
What can anyone say about "justice,"
to the parents in that situation?

Have I painted a bleak picture?
Welcome to a glimpse
of the world as God sees it!

How can he bear it? I don’t know.

I know what I would do, and perhaps you, too:
I would send lightning bolts! Zap! Zap! Zap!
Hell would fill up,
and the earth would be empty.
So much for my solution.

My point is, we fault God’s seeming inaction.
But what have we to offer instead?

Many consider all this,
and conclude, "there is no God."

OK; but when God is out of the picture…
does that lessen human suffering,
even one bit?

So, considering that no one, in all history,
has arrived at a solution…
maybe we could cut God a break?

The reading said, "Justice is undying."
The outrage we feel
inside us bears witness to that.
But, once again, if there is no God,
then the source of that outraged justice
is precisely the same
source as the injustice!

If the human heart
is the same source for both,
how can we trust our own notions of justice?
How can we have any hope?

Look again at the readings.
What has God done?

He came.
Instead of my plan—lightning bolts—
he offered healing.
A woman with a hemorrhage;
a family who lost a child.
What healing did they truly need—
and receive?

That woman had already found courage and faith—
the physical healing was confirmation of that.
That deeper healing is what changed her life.

Through her trials, she discovered
there is but one Source of Life—and it is Jesus!
And she came to the point
where nothing would stop her
from seizing hold of that Life!

Are you and I at that point?
How many of us let so many dumb things
get in the way
of our relationship with the Lord?
Or—do we take it all for granted?

I know a man who went to jail
for a very serious crime.
He writes and tells me how awful it is.
Every hour, he’s frightened. So alone:
no family or friends around;
no quiet place to pray.

He has nothing left…but God.

Of course, his story is far from complete.
But what he’s going through
may make a saint of him—
and who knows what
the alternative would have been?

I have not suffered very much in my life;
but what dark times I have known,
were when God was most real to me.
Has that not been true for you?

We ask God, what will you do?
There is something else God has done.

Al the suffering, the injustice—
the whole weight of it—
God took upon his shoulders,
when he took up the cross.

This, too, is why God became man—
to have shoulders to bear
that unbearable weight!

Our artistic crosses conceal
it’s true horror.

It is the sum of all human injustice:
a group of men, a human system,
crushed one man;
the powerful over the powerless;
the guilty condemn the innocent.
It is all too common.
And if it had been merely a man on that cross,
it would have been just another tragic episode,
and nothing more!

But on that cross was not only a man, but God!

We look heavenward and demand:
"God, what are you going to do about it all?"

This is his answer!

God could strike; instead,
he submitted to the blows.
God could condemn; instead,
he opened not his mouth.
We owed the debt; He paid the price!

You want healing? That’s your healing!
Embrace that—not as something we earn,
but purely as a gift!

Let that Gift be at the center of your heart—
and the Cross become the pattern of your life:
that’s healing!

If we wonder at God’s patience,
could it be we can have no idea
just how long it must take
to heal all that is broken
and crooked in the human race?
Destroy? Easy. Redeem? That’s harder.

The Cross is our healing.

You and I are transformed, when…
Exhausted from questions
and demands, we fall silent…
Bored with pursuing happiness in what we own,
or the approval of others,
we come, like the woman, empty handed.

Sickened by all we seek to feed our hunger,
we turn at last to the One true Bread of Life.

Only at the Cross
does our suffering find any meaning.
Only here do we find, not an end to suffering,
but a supernatural peace and power despite it!

We cry out to heaven:
"God, where are you?"

God has answered:
"On the Cross."


Anonymous said...

It is through our own suffering that we learn to see with the eyes of God and to cry his tears for the suffering of all life on earth.

Anonymous said...

Excellent homily. I was trying to figure out how yesterday's readings were related, and you connected the dots.

mrsdarwin said...

Thank you, Father. I was intrigued by the first reading but it wasn't mentioned in our Sunday sermon. You put the readings together in a compelling way. Good sermon!

Fr Martin Fox said...

Mrs. Darwin:

Thanks for your feedback.

One of my methods, in preparing a homily, is to think about the "difficulties" a reading raises, either the difficulty of getting its meaning, or if it presents a problematic image of God (e.g., the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac), or if it raises difficult questions, such as that reading from Wisdom: it seemed to me a deeper consideration of what it said raised the very question I lit upon: what about suffering and evil in the world? If God hates it so much, why is there so much of it?

Of course, what I don't know is whether this question occurs to anyone else, listening to this reading. But my thought was, if you take this reading seriously, this is a reasonable question!