Posted by: mmreflections | March 27, 2013

Turning Our Grief Into Joy March 2013

“Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes.  The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward.”

(Jeremiah 31:16)

This past month has been filled with historical events for the Catholic Church and for people around the world who look to the Holy Father for some guidance in our troubled world.  We have witnessed the surprising resignation of the first pope in history, followed by the conclave of cardinals to select a successor, the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel in Rome announcing their selection of the first pope from the Americas who took the name of Francis, after the holy man of Assisi and finally the beautiful installation ceremonies.

The first message to the world was his call to kindness and respect for all our brothers and sisters in the world, especially the marginalized, the broken ones, the rejected ones as well as a greater respect for our environment which has been entrusted to our care.  Truly, these are words of hope to our troubled world.  Pope Francis was received with great joy and anticipation all around the world.  However, it did not take very long for the critics to start casting their doubts and reservations.  The challenge to the rich and powerful to have greater concern for the lowly ones, the forgotten ones is not always received with much enthusiasm.

We were quickly reminded of how things can change a few days after these historical events, on Palm Sunday, when we remembered and reflected upon the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before his arrest and crucifixion.  This is a stark reminder for all of us about how easily our attitudes and that of other people can be  reversed when life doesn’t unfold according to our personal wishes or plans.  Throughout the pages of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we see how fickle and easily influenced the people of God can be.  When God’s chosen people led out of the slavery in Egypt by Moses to the promised land were enjoying their new freedom while all was going well, we see their contrasting attitude when challenged to greater faith in the One God.   Only too easily did they long for the old days in Egypt and build for themselves a golden calf, a false god.

During this Holy Week we will be hearing lessons from the Old Testament one of which is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three righteous men who worshipped the True God.  When the people who worshipped the One God were challenged by King Nevuchadnessar and forced to worship a golden idol to profess their loyalty to the king or be killed, many did so to save their lives.  But the heroes of our story refused and were threatened to be thrown into  a furnace.  They stood firm as have so many martyrs in the history of our Church who were willing to die before worshipping a false god.  The outcome of the story is that the three holy men were protected by God in the furnace and the king  in fear acknowledged their God was the True God.  (Cfr.  Daniel 3:12-100)

Our Catholic Church stands firm in teaching us what will bring us true happiness and guides us by the Ten Commandments which Moses received and made known to his people.  These are the guidelines for a way of life that is fulfilling.  Jesus taught us the way, the truth and the life we are called to live.  Because of our weakness as human beings we may not always live up to these ideals set before us but they are still what will bring us to a fulfilling life.  These ideals cannot be changed to satisfy every choice we make as human beings.  This is why we need a power greater than ourselves; we need a Savior.  Jesus realized there would be many who would walk away when life’s challenges tempted them to follow an easier way.  When some walked away when they heard Jesus’ words, he asked his close followers, “Will you also go away?”  Some answered, “To whom shall we go?  You speak the words of eternal life.”  (Cfr. John 6:66-70)  On another occasion we hear of Jesus’ lament as he beheld the city of Jerusalem from a nearby hilltop.  His words echo today, “How many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling.”  (Matthew 23:37)  Many of us still do not let Jesus make God’s love known to us especially when we sacrifice ideals and integrity  and bow down and worship idols of pleasure, fortune, fame and power.

The way to true happiness is reaching out to the poor and marginalized ones, as Pope Francis encourages us to do in order to make our world a better place.  We may ask, “Who are these poor ones of which he speaks?”  Our answer is found in the life of St. Francis who gave up wealth and fortune to reach out to those in need all around him.  We see it so well in all the narratives of Jesus in the Scriptures.  If we pay attention we will come to realize that the poor ones are not only the homeless on the streets, the panhandlers we see whenever we go out in public.

If we would only take time to really pay attention to the brothers and sisters all around us, especially those closest to us:  our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our children and our fellow church members, we would realize that every person is mourning some loss.  Some have lost a wife or husband, a loved one, a parent, a job, a home, a special friendship, a deep and loving relationship, a loss of youth, good health, financial security, a pet, a loss of reputation or just the way life used to be in the “good old days.”  Some have experienced someone’s betrayal, others have experienced the pain resulting from lies someone has made against them or who judged them falsely.  Others suffer the loss of joy because of humiliations heaped upon them.  The list can go on and on.  More often than not, we can become so preoccupied with our own drama that we have no time to pay attention to the pain of others.  All are poor ones who would be blessed by any little kindness.  The prophet Jeremiah’s words speaking in the name of God called out to such as these poor ones, “I will turn your mourning into joy; I will console and gladden you, my poor ones, after your sorrows.”  (Cfr. Jeremiah 31:13)

The real secret of happiness can only be found by reaching out and bringing some peace or joy into the life of another.  Whenever we do any kindness for another no matter how small, it will always come back to us.  As my time in the Army was drawing to a close fifty-five years ago, a dear friend of mine offered some guiding words to me when I told her I would be entering the seminary to study for the priesthood.  “Whoever brings sunshine into the life of another will always have sunshine in their own life.”  I do not know who the original author of these words may have been but they have lingered with me ever since I first heard them.

These words can be a possible theme of us during this Holy Week and as we enter into the new life of the Resurrection.  These words can be a reminder to us that life ends not in grief, but in joy.  Our losses will be replaced with better things.  We might pray for the grace and attentiveness to show others whatever kindness we can, and to receive graciously whatever kindness someone offers to us.  

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you. Whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me.”  (Cfr. Matthew 31-41)

 

 

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Responses

  1. Dear
    Fr. Mike,
    Thank you for all the reminders of what life and love are. You never fail to amaze me with all of your wisdom.
    Christ Is Risen!
    Indeed He Is Risen
    God Bless and Happy 50th
    Kitty

  2. Dear Father Mike,

    What another beautiful writing. I always look forward to our lenten journey each year. It gives us all the opportunity to reflect, just as you do, on the important part of life that we’re usually too busy to take the time to do. Your beautiful writings do just that, and we are so blessed that you take your time to give all of us words to inspire. Thank you. Soon we shall all rejoice in the joy of our risen Lord.
    God bless and have a beautiful day.

    Andrea

  3. Thank you, Fr. Mike, for your gracious words of wisdom! This is another beautiful reflection. As part of my Easter renewal, I fully intend to focus on (as well as pass along) the message of ‘bringing sunshine into the lives of others.’ I wish you a very joyful and blessed Easter!
    Christos Voskres!! Voistinnu Voskres!!
    In Christ’s peace & love,
    ~Amy


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