SUFFERING AND GOD’S LOVE
The lament of Job in today’s first reading is a cry of soul-weariness. Prior to his speaking Job has lost everything he held dear; possessions, children and health. He feels like he is walking knee deep in thick mud. Each step is sapping his strength and the journey seems endless.
Those who have battled with breast cancer (and other life threatening conditions) reach a point in the illness and the treatment where they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Dying appears as an outcome that is not shunned if it means an end of what they are going through.
St Agatha was only a young woman when she died. Her persecutors to break her spirit and her outlook on life which flowed from her belief in Christ and the love of the Father, these persecutors forced her into a brothel and then when that abuse did not work mutilated her so that no man would desire her. Through it all she stayed firm in her faith. Finally she was, it seems, killed by the thrust of a sword.
Agatha did not speak of how God’s love was active in the midst of her sufferings but she would not disagree with what another author in recent years said about God’s love and suffering. The author reflected on the human experience of suffering and saw the action of God manifesting itself in three ways: protecting, promoting and perfecting. Some are protected from serious illness and the suffering that comes with it. Others do contract illness and lose their health and vitality but by God’s grace acting directly on them and through the skills of doctors, nurses and pharmacists promotes the afflicted one out of the situation they are in. Still others remain gripped by the illness and all its side-effects but are perfected in it. They choose to see their suffering as a way to share deeply and personally with Jesus’ own suffering – mental, physical and emotional. He was betrayed by a close friend, persecuted by the authorities, tortured and brutalised in ways that are all too familiar to us as terror group practise their dark abhorrent ritual killings. Finally his body as the bodies of those destroyed by illness could not keep going. His death was not a defeat but a high point of what he lived – to do his Father’s will. His last words and those who suffered like him are: Father into your hands I commend my Spirit. This is perfection.
Life threatening illnesses will see us asking all kinds of questions not only about the illness but also why is this happening at all. There are no easy set answers to the latter questions: why me? In the absence of easy answers we acknowledge the reality of Job’s soul-weariness but above all welcome the fact that in the midst of everything we are going through we are held in the loving hand of God.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Feb 12, 2015||5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 08.02.2015||Listen||Download|