Sunday, January 31, 2016

Life in Every Stage has Meaning

The Word of God this Sunday takes us back to traumatic times for Ancient Israel. 

Jesus in the Nazareth Synagogue
God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet, to speak on God's behalf.  So Jeremiah describes Hebrew infidelities against covenantal promises, proclaims a new covenant, and urges people not to fight against Ancient Babylonia. He encounters opposition. And yet, because Jeremiah believes God is with him, he speaks God's message courageously.

The author may be asking us whether we stand up for what's right or do we simply go along to get along.

Paul, in his letter to the Christian community in Corinth, poetically describes in an ode or hymn the meaning of true love. Love, Paul writes, is not showy gifts. It is not envious or rude or irritable. Nor does it insist “on its own way.”

No, love is like a prism that reflects myriad characteristics: patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, forgiveness, compassion, self-discipline, peace, joy. And love never ceases because God is love. Love is eternity in God's presence.

How do we live those virtues?

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus, like Jeremiah and Paul, pursues his mission uncompromisingly. He proclaims that the kingdom of God is breaking into our midst; that all people can share in this kingdom by living a life of discipleship, a life of virtue. 

Jesus encounters opposition. And yet, because God is with Him, Jesus continues, whatever the consequences.

The question for us is: what energizes us? Where do we find purpose? 

Some argue convincingly that we find meaning in a mix of what we do, what we experience and eventually in the mystery of our own suffering and dying.

Here’s an example. A newly minted medical doctor found purpose primarily in his work. But then an inoperable spinal tumor gradually paralyzed him. He couldn’t work. 

So he began to find meaning primarily in everyday experiences at the facility where he was cared for. He talked with other patients: entertained and encouraged them. He read good books, listened to music, stayed in touch with his far-away family. 

But at length he couldn’t even do these things. He now had to find meaning primarily in his own suffering and dying. So he became a counselor to fellow sufferers, and an example by bearing his own inescapable suffering bravely.  

And finally he had to let go and with faith in God, he made a leap into the mystery of death and into the hands of God—like a trapeze artist who trusts that his fellow artist will catch him. 

Life indeed was worth living for this physician. He found meaning in every stage. In what he did. In what he experienced. Eventually in the mystery of suffering and dying.

What are human beings meant for? We are meant for something greater, something transcendent, beyond ourselves: the human spirit. Always open to a relationship with God.

Yes, our purpose, no matter what our profession or stage in life, is to be in relationship with God and one another forever.

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