When everything goes wrong


Homily on the readings for Sept. 28, Tuesday of the XXVI week in OT, year II

There are times in our lives when it seems things just couldn’t be worse.

Job, in the first reading today, was having one of those moments. God had allowed the devil to test him, and everything in his life had gone wrong. He had lost most of his family and practically all his possessions, and had even lost his good health. His friends were judging him and assuming he was being punished for some terrible sin. Understandably, Job was feeling discouraged. As a result, he curses the day he was born, and wishes he had died before or during birth, or at least that he would die soon. Although we can see why he felt this way, God later rebukes him for his lack of faith – and also blesses him with even more prosperity than he had before.

The apostles in today’s gospel reading were having a different kind of bad day. Leading up to this passage, Jesus had rebuked them several times for their lack of faith, and had also predicted his own death and resurrection, which was hard for them to comprehend. He was heading up to Jerusalem telling them he was going to suffer and die. Now, they tried to get the people of a Samaritan town to receive him on the way, and the townsfolk refused because Jesus was a Jew going to Jerusalem (there was bad blood between Jews and the Samaritans going back a long way). The apostles feel that this is the last straw. Instead of being discouraged like Job, they react with anger: James and John ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven to burn the town and the people. Christ rebukes them (again); anger and revenge are not the right response to difficulty.

The Psalmist takes a different approach. He also feels that he has hit rock bottom, and feels abandoned by God. Yet, he responds by turning to God in prayer: “Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my call for help.” Jesus himself, in his moment of greatest suffering and abandonment on the cross, does the same. He actually quotes the beginning of psalm 22 when he says, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” That psalm continues by alternating expressions of prayer and sorrow, pleas for divine help, and expressions of trust and praise. As we all know, this prayer was heard, and Jesus rose from the dead, but he had to drink the cup of suffering to the full first by his death on the cross.

The chances are that we have had moments when we too were suffering profoundly and could not understand why God had allowed it. If we haven’t experienced it yet, we probably will sooner or later; it’s part of life. But let’s remember the lesson of today’s readings: even when it seems there is no way out of a bad situation, or no end to our suffering, we cannot allow ourselves to be overcome by despair or anger. God is still near us and we should turn to Him trusting that He has a reason for allowing our hardship. As Christians, we can do more than just tolerate misfortune; we are members of the Body of Christ, and can unite our sufferings to that of Christ on the cross, and participate in the work of redemption. In our Lord Jesus Christ, we can turn the curse of suffering into the blessing of divine grace.

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About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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