If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor. Ps 127
Dear Friends in Christ:
Well, here we are, all of us are in a rebuilding project. Whether we lost everything or nothing, we are all in this effort together to re-build not just the homes that have been destroyed but also the neighborhoods, the community and our own sense of self and the life we lead. Do we just go back and pretend like nothing has happened? Do we sit angry in the mold and the muck? Do we despair and wait for someone to take care of it for us? What is it that we are rebuilding anyway?
One of the beautiful aspects of our Catholic Faith is the very realistic attitude and belief we have concerning the question of suffering. The modern mindset says all suffering is pure evil and to be totally eradicated. Good luck with that. False religions and bad theology see suffering as a direct punishment for sin or retribution from the gods. Jesus dealt with those crazy ideas when asked about the man born blind – if it was because of his sin or those of his parents that he suffered this affliction (Jn 9:1-3). Jesus of course answers neither. Our understanding and belief about suffering is that while we live in a fallen world corrupted by sin, we have been redeemed but the vestiges of our fallen state remain with us. Yet because of Christ taking on our human suffering in his own body, suffering can be redemptive. N.B. Redemptive is not the same as fun or easy or painless.
God’s love is totally transforming. In the midst of pain and suffering good can grow, grace increases, faith is strengthened and love is given and shared. This is true for both the bearer of the pain and suffering and for those around the one who suffers.
While our faith directs and compels all of us to work to alleviate the pain of all those who suffer (the corporal and spiritual works of mercy), we still see suffering as a means that God can use to draw us closer to him and to bring good to others. It is not ultimately about eradicating pain and suffering, it is what we do with pain and suffering. Do we grow cold, bitter, resentful or jealous? Do we see ourselves only as victims of fate, cruelty or unfairness? Or do we see our suffering as an opportunity to bear pain for others, to give witness to the love of Christ, to be encouraging to others, to dwell on our blessings and what we have and/or had and not just on what we have lost? Do we see our suffering as an invitation to turn back to God, to grow closer to the Lord who is with us in our suffering? To pray more, to love more, to offer our sufferings up for others who are suffering more than we are. Think of it – everything that we have lost in the floods was first a gift to us. How grateful were we for those gifts or did we just take them for granted? Remember how grateful we were when the power came on after being off for a week? Did you thank God for the electricity that you have today and remember those in the world who do not have it and never had?
As we rebuild in the days, weeks and months ahead, we have a choice. We can do it all on our own, but in the end we know we can’t take it with us when we die (You’ve never seen a Brinks truck in a funeral procession!) or we can build our homes, our lives with the Lord and let him lead us. Today is a chance, an opportunity, an invitation to greater faith, hope and love. This catastrophe, this suffering that we all find ourselves in, is a moment of grace if we let it be and let God use us and lead us. If Jesus can change water into wine, multiply loaves and fish, heal the sick and cure the lame, turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood and turn death into life – think what we can do with our sufferings of today and a hurricane and a flood! If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor. Ps 127
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately