Sunday, April 28, 2013

Necessary Hardships

Homily from the 5th Sunday of Easter - Year C

It goes without saying that we all want to get to Heaven.  When it comes down to it, that’s why we’re all here right now.  This is part of our plan for getting to Heaven: we pray, we listen to the Word of God, we receive the Eucharist, and we do so as a family, a Church.

But there’s still one more thing we must do to get to Heaven.  St. Paul tells us what it is in today’s first reading.  And it’s difficult to hear.  It’s stark.  St. Paul says,  “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

We have been undergoing many hardships lately.  Boston... West, Texas  The other day a factory collapsed in Bangladesh; over 300 people are dead.

And we don’t have to look far and wide to see hardship.  We find it in our own families and communities.  Marriages fall apart.  Friends and relatives are stricken with illness.  The innocent lose their lives.

And we ask, “Why?  Why is there all this suffering in the world?  Why this hardship?”  We ask God that question.  And we wait for answers.  And sometimes it seems that answers don’t come.  We don’t hear an explanation.  The thing is though, the answer to our suffering and hardship doesn’t come with words.

A lady once told me about the time she was sharing the story of her hardship, her suffering with her husband.  And after listening for a little bit, the husband offered her a few answers, some advice and a possible solution.  And she stopped him and said, “I didn’t ask you to fix my problem.  I asked you just to listen.”

That’s the response of a lover.  A lover listens.  A lover empathizes.  A lover is there with you in your hardship.  This is how God answers our hardship and suffering.

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Peter Kreeft talks about this beautifully in his book “Making Sense Out of Suffering.”  He points out that in the midst of suffering, we often times desire someone there with us, rather than an explanation for our suffering.  And God is with us.

“God didn’t varnish over our sin and our suffering.  He came into it... We needed a surgeon, and he came and reached into our wounds with bloody hands.  He didn’t give us a placebo or a pill or good advice.  He gave us himself... In coming into our world he came also into our suffering.  He sits beside us in the stalled car in the snowbank.  Sometimes he starts the car for us, but even when he doesn’t, he is there.  That is the only thing that matters.  Who cares about cars and success and miracles and long life when you have God sitting beside you?”

And when we look at the Cross, that’s what we see.  We see God sitting beside us.

Peter Kreeft asks,  “Are we broken?  He is broken with us.  Are we rejected?... He was ‘despised and rejected of men.’  Do we weep?... He was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’  Do people misunderstand us, turn away from us?  They hid their faces from him as from an outcast, a leper.  Is our love betrayed?... He too loved and was betrayed by the ones he loved.

When we feel the weight of the world crashing down upon us - we must know - that he is here with us.

“Every tear we shed becomes his tear.  He may not yet wipe them away, but he makes them his.”

And when we suffer, we can as Peter Kreeft says pretty well, “use our very brokenness as nourishment for those we love.  Since we are his body, we too are the bread that is broken for others... our very tears help wipe away tears.”

St. Paul says is even better in his letter to the Colossians: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”  All of our sufferings are transformable into the work Jesus does from his Cross.  When we suffer for each other, we “love one another” as Christ has loved us

“In summary,” Kreeft says, “Jesus did three things to solve the problem of suffering.  “First, he came.  He suffered with us. He wept.  Second, in becoming man he transformed the meaning of our suffering; it is now part of his work of redemption.  Third, he died and rose.  Dying he paid the price for sin and opened heaven to us; rising, he transformed death from a hole into a door, from an end into a beginning."

That’s what we’re celebrating this Easter season, the opening of that door, that new beginning, that leads to Heaven.  Where “he will wipe away ever tear... and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.”  He will “make all things new”

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  So pray, my brother’s and sisters, that Christ’s sacrifice... that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point, Fr. Andrew. I blogged about this very subject earlier this year, shortly after our infant daughter was born with a rare chromosomal anomaly: