Sunday, July 17, 2011 – Lamentations – Surviving Ruin“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel. With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end. Not long after the fall of Jerusalem (587) an eyewitness of the national humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore. The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”. (Senior 1017)
We might not want to reflect on a time of crisis in our personal lives when all we knew had been destroyed or lost, when a time of happiness and prosperity ended. We may want to avoid thinking about any humiliation or chastisement we have experienced. The memories of our personal shattering experiences may be too difficult to handle, too painful to live with. The Book of Lamentations written by Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, is a small one and may be easily overlooked; yet it holds so much that is vital to living happily. In Lamentations we find the important lesson that while we do not want to center our lives on suffering, neither do we want to circumvent its message. Focusing a life on the avoidance of pain only leads to more obstacles . . . more grief . . . more distress . . . and eventually, even more pain. Learning how to pass through pain patiently, placing our trust in God as we navigate the grief also allows the transforming touch of God to bring us the serenity we yearn to experience . . . despite the sorrow we feel. When we allow God to alter our attitude about the losses we suffer, we also consent to God’s transformation. We enter into life’s shattering experiences . . . and exit with a new view of the world, a renewed sense of compassion, and a serenity that cannot be shaken. Lamentations gives us an opportunity to examine our attitude toward pain and God’s deep and abiding love for us.
Today’s Mass readings provide a roadmap for healing through pain: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43 all outline the same lesson: God has infinite patience, compassion, mercy and love . . . enough to heal any breach or restore any loss. From today’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: “God in his providence will use even the apparent evil that attends us in life to some perfecting purpose; out of our littleness, our emptiness, our nothingness Gods greatness will flower in an astonishing way”. (Cameron, 251) Rather than curse our loss as punishment or the end of an era, when we rely on God we learn to celebrate each shattering experience as the beginning of something new. And so we pray . . .
Good and patient God,
For all the times we forget to call on you when we suffer and for those times we lose patience with ourselves and others . . . continue to be patient with us.
For all the times we show anger instead of compassion and for those times we commit acts of vengeance rather than love . . . continue to be merciful with us.
For all those times we are anxious about evil in the world and for those times we forget that you always pull goodness out of wickedness . . . continue to abide in us.
For all those times we grow weary of the daily struggles and for those times we waver in our trust . . . continue to be with us. Amen.
Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1017. Print.
Cameron, Peter John, Rev. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 17 July 2011: 251. Print.