10th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

     

     Regardless of how religious we are, when tragedy strikes, our faith becomes important to us. Often when our back is against the wall and we have no other options we recognize that our only option is to turn to God. It is in those moments, that we often find ourselves wresting with one of the most foundational, yet extremely important question, of our faith. While it is asked in many different ways, at its core it is a simple question, namely “does God even care about me.” While it may not always be easy to see in our daily lives, if we read the Gospels we see through Jesus’ interactions with the people of His day that He really does care.

     In today’s Gospel we hear that Jesus is traveling near the city of Nain and happens upon a funeral procession for a young man, who was the only son of a widow. At Jesus’ time when a woman lost her husband her children had to provide for her or else she would live on the streets. This woman, having lost her husband and now her only son, had no one left to care for her and was destined to live on the street. She was at the point of utter despair as she was literally processing to the place where she would give away the last thing of any significance in her life.

     Notice that St. Luke tells us that Jesus was moved with pity for her. As we see time and time again in Jesus’ life, when He sees others suffering He responds with compassion. This word compassion comes from smashing two Latin words together: the words cum and passionis. Cum is the Latin word for with and passionis is the Latin verb to suffer, thus the word compassion literally means to suffer with. Jesus doesn’t just offer this woman some nice thoughts or promise of prayers, no He suffers with her. Jesus who endured suffering far greater than we can ever imagine on the cross understands the plight of the widow and decides to meet her in her suffering.

     Jesus proves to us by His actions that we do not have a distant God who doesn’t care about us. We have a God in the person of Jesus Christ, who underwent the most extreme suffering possible on the cross, a God who understands our suffering and decides to suffer with us! God really does care about us; He hears us and joins us in our suffering if we are willing to turn to Him, so we must never forget that “suffering is never a reason for discouragement of lack of confidence in God, since it proves the truth of his love for us.”[1] He feels sorrow for us when we suffer and so in all humility and honesty we must never forget that we never suffer alone and can always turn to Him in our darkest moments and find Him right there, linking His cross to ours.

     My first year in the seminary I was assigned to work with the Missionaries of Charity in an after school program they offered for children in north St. Louis city. We would meet with the students after school, shoot some hoops, help them with their homework, and then just before the sisters fed them dinner we would go into the chapel to pray a decade of the rosary. This short 10 minutes was easily the most frustrating part of our time with them, because they did not know how to sit still for just a moment to pray 10 simple Hail Mary’s. I remember one day being extremely frustrated and asking one of the sisters why we even bother trying to get them to pray. Sister patiently reminded me that these students face horrors on the streets that we cannot even imagine. She went on to remind me that if we do not teach them how to pray they will have no one to turn to in their suffering. I don’t know what horrors many of those students have had to experience over the past 9 plus years or what horrors they will have to face in the future, but I take comfort knowing that they know how to pray the Hail Mary and I pray that in their darkest hours when they have nowhere else to turn, they turn to the Hail Mary, because I am confident that Mary will lead them to her son, who will suffer with them and bring them through their darkest moments.

     Jesus always brings good out of suffering if we allow Him to. Thus “suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who is our true friend.”[2] In suffering we are given the opportunity to turn to God and we come to realize that He is there suffering with us. While the temptation is to find an escape from our suffering “in the face of suffering and death human beliefs and ideologies are all, more or less, explicitly doctrine of escape, … No doctrine of escape is worth of God.”[3] My friends God cares and He joins us in our suffering. In His care for us God wants to suffer with us. Do we push Him aside and try to escape or do we turn to Him in prayer and allow Him to suffer with us?

[1] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe, Our Priest is Christ. (1969) Pg. 56.

[2] St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge: Marian Press. (2011) Pg. 153.

[3] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe, Our Priest is Christ. (1969) Pg. 20.

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