This reflection is for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 2/4/2018.
To quote one of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite movies is always a reason for joy! In The Princess Bride, Wesley (as the Man in Black) tells Princess Buttercup, as she complains about her sadness and suffering, “Life is pain, Highness! And anyone who says otherwise is selling something.” That’s just the truth.
Today’s first reading speaks of Job’s own sadness and suffering. Job (pronounced Jobe) laments that man’s life on earth is a drudgery. He sees himself as nothing more than a slave, with months of misery, troubled nights, and no hope for the dawn (Job 7:1-7). Sounds like Job and I might have the same job!
Once living high on the hog, poor Job begins to really feel the pain, the sadness, and the suffering of the human condition. All was good, Job was good, and then it was not, and he was not. I am often asked by “good people,” as they experience the trials of life, why good people suffer. My answer is clear–everyone suffers. Another one of my favorites is like it, “Why do good people suffer while bad people get away with everything?” Newsflash: Everyone suffers–the good and the bad alike. And every dog has his day. Jesus told the crowds, “The Heavenly Father makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (MT 5:45) And that’s just the way it is. The sooner we can come to terms with reality the better.
I teach my students (and my own boys) the Law of Reality, “The Cadet recognizes that life is difficult and often unfair. The Cadet refuses to play the role of the victim but chooses to honor the Cadet Pledge even in difficult situations.” The Cadet Pledge is, “I Pledge to respect myself by growing in wisdom and by living by core values, respect others by being kind and unselfish, and respect authority by obeying SMA rules and staff.”
As Christians, Jesus’ own life is a helpful guide here. The Romans nailed Jesus, an innocent man, to a cross while at the same time allowing Barabas, an admitted criminal, go free–life is difficult and often unfair.
Far from playing the victim, Jesus, without grumbling or complaint, endures his suffering and even forgives his persecutors. Crazy. Even the unjust are blessed by Jesus.
As we experience the difficulty of life (and we will) we have a choice to make. We can complain, become bitter, curse others, God, the situation, and make ourselves and everyone around us miserable, or we can choose to not play the victim. We can choose to honor ourselves, and others, we can remain faithful to God, and we can continue to love, forgive, and bless even as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the dawn!
Psalm 147 promises that God heals the broken-hearted! And says that we should praise in the midst of our broken-heartedness. Easy to do? No. Every bit of suffering sucks, and I’m not trying to minimize or trivialize it here, but suffering is universal to the human condition–and we’re not so special that we should be exempted.
Praise God for the blessings, praise God for the trials, and praise God when they’re over. Peace WILL come to all–sadly, for some, only in the end. So, love, period. Because everyone you know is going through something you know nothing about. Love…that’s it, rain or shine.