Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Readings of the day: RB 61:1-5
Mass: Isaiah 48:17-19; Resp. Psalm 1; Matthew 11:16-19

If you hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea.

During a lengthy drive yesterday, I became engrossed in the audio version of Graham Greene’s (1904-1991), The End of the Affair, narrated superbly by Colin Firth. The epigraph drew me in: ‘Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence’ (Léon Bloy, 1846-1917). Bloy’s words are striking and ring true for me. In my experience it is in moments of suffering where one chooses life or death. Put another way, it is in suffering that we intensity our search for God (see Sarah in Greene’s novel), or distance ourselves from God. Or, it is in suffering that our faith in God strengthens (maybe Bendrix in the novel), or weakens. 

Suffering comes in packages big and small: grief over the death of a loved one, physical and/or emotional illness or decline, rejection, jealousy, being overlooked for a promotion I thought I deserved, being removed from a job I loved, doing the dishes when I know it is ‘someone else’s’ job. Do I murmur and complain about my lot in life—spend my energy criticizing like the crowds addressed in today’s Gospel? Oh, this generation who criticizes John the Baptist, ‘possessed by a demon’, and Jesus, a ‘glutton and drunkard’.

One of my favorite paragraphs in the Catechism speaks of the heart and sheds further light on the beauty and delicacy of its veiled corners: ‘The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death’ (CCC 2563). 

Suffering pierces our hearts in places that we didn’t even know were there. Will it be life or death?

The Lord will come; go out to meet him!
He is the prince of peace.


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