Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bringing Easter Hope to Someone's Good Friday

In the Gospel according to Mark, two disciples argue over the privilege of status. Jesus says: “can you drink the cup that I drink?” That is, the “cup of suffering”? And then Jesus concludes: to be a disciple is to serve. Serving others, not lording over others, is leadership.

Within the mystery of suffering is a spiritual power. Hidden in every Good Friday is an Easter hope or joy. Think about it.

Someone in a family loses a job or is seriously ill or sees a relationship begin to unravel. And together, this family deals with this “cross” and thereby brings hope, healing, to their life together.

Or a student is discouraged and wants to quit. And a teacher patiently walks through the problems with the befuddled student. And after a lot of hard work, the “lights come on.”

Or a working mother has lost all of her accrued vacation and leave time to care for her seriously ill child. Her coworkers devise a plan to pool some of their vacation time and cover her responsibilities so that she can keep her job and benefits while caring for her sick child.

This transforms a Good Friday of desperation into an Easter of possibility.

We sometimes find ourselves stuck– our problems sometimes batter and even overwhelm us. Then, our faith challenges us to remember that good ultimately will conquer evil. The ministry of Jesus did not end in the tragedy of the cross but in the triumph of the Resurrection.

I recall a story of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize winner. In a memoir of his experiences at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, he describes how the SS marched all the inmates to the parade grounds and there hung a youngster – as a warning to the other inmates not to try an escape. And as the youngster hung there dying, Wiesel, a youngster himself, heard a voice behind him say: where is God now?

This is an eternal question: in the Book of Job, The Confessions of St. Augustine, the literature of 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, and in best sellers today like Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Yes, the entire planet cries out for God's healing grace. At times suffering does result from sin, from immoral behavior, from the misuse of freedom. At other times, suffering results from an unfinished, incomplete universe, a universe in process, to paraphrase St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans. 

Remember that God is always near us. He is forever bringing us to fuller life. He will never abandon us. Chisel in your memories the words of Scripture, “Can a mother forget her child and, even if she does, I will never forget you.”

And remember that the mystery of suffering has healing and redemptive power. Our inescapable “aches and pains,” borne with love, can bring forth new life in ourselves and in others. Because the sufferings of Jesus did precisely that: they brought forth resurrection and life, for all.

We can bring Easter Hope to someone's Good Friday by reaching out to them with a helping hand, or a listening ear or an encouraging word. 

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