Fifth Sunday in Ordinary
Saint Patrick Parish
February 3-4, 2018
If there's anyone who just loves suffering, I’d like you to go ahead and let me know, you can jump up and shout and let us all know... nobody, well Ok, I guess that's all right. Yesterday evening, before we began Mass, Father Jeff asks “what are you preaching on?” And I said “suffering,” he says “of course you are.” He knows me too well. I begin with suffering but I hope to end with hope - and so that's where we are headed. Suffering is something that every one of us, in one way or another, from the moment of our birth, or more than likely even before our birth, our mothers will certainly tell us that. Definitely from the moment of our birth, to the moment of our death, we experience suffering to some degree. The mere fact that we, as human beings, as material creatures, will experience hunger after a few hours of going without food is evidence of the reality of suffering. It starts there, and just works its way out from there. Life means suffering, to one degree or another, and because suffering is such a basic part of life much as been said about the nature of suffering.
There are many ways in which our society tries to answer the question of suffering, and these are the top 3 hits, my three favorites. Number one - everything happens for a reason. Now, isn’t that lovely, nothing like taking a huge problem and dismissing it with everything happens for a reason. Two - GOD doesn't give you anything you can't handle. Well that’s nice, GOD becomes some kind of chess player, or something. Finally, my personal favorite, the one I've heard most recently - GOD gives HIS greatest battles to HIS bravest warriors. I didn’t know GOD is such a battle general. All of these saying, in one way or another, do have some hint of truth to them, but I think they are ultimately simple answers to a complicated question. I was discussing this question with a group of seniors at Sacred Heart and one in the back raised her hand and she said “well, are you saying that everything doesn't happen for a reason?” I stopped, and thought for a moment, and I said “actually yes, I think everything does happen for a reason, but it's not as simple as just saying it happens for a reason, the reason is love.” Love ultimately means vulnerability, and vulnerability means suffering. If we love, we open our hearts to the capacity to hurt, and the capacity to hurt will eventually lead us to hurting. Either we love, or in the words of Yoda, we turn towards fear - we turn away from one another. I do think everything does happen for a reason, in a way none of us will ever fully understand, but at the same time it calls us to love. Suffering calls us to recognize that each and every one of us suffers to a degree, and it really doesn't help to compare suffering either, by the way, we all suffer and some of us do suffer more than others, but it doesn’t really help to do those calculations. This line of thinking doesn’t lift anyone up, it quickly leads to the line of thinking that says “just get over it, you're not one of those starving children in the middle of a developing country” or “just look at all the good things you have.” This isn’t loving, it’s shaming, and the suffering remains, along with feelings of shame for suffering. No matter the level of suffering your suffering still has value. Let's not demote suffering too quickly.