07 December 2012

Suffering, Hope, and Being a saint

Wednesday night I went to Mass.  I have been trying to do some extra things to help ready and prepare myself for Christmas...so I figured an extra dose of the Eucharist was a pretty good option.  The church I went was of full of little kids from Religious Ed and their parents.  Sometimes there are those homilies that stop you dead in tracks, and make you think, "Wowzers!" So last night was one of them nights for me. Two big things that made me think, read on and you shall see:)

The priest started talking about the first reading from the prophet Isaiah (25:6-10) see HERE for the actual reading.  He started talking about how there is a lot of suffering in the world; far away and right here in our own communities.  Right here in the southeastern part of Michigan, two specific families come to my mind when I think of recent hardship and suffering.

Officer Patrick O'Rourke was a police officer who was shot and killed at the beginning of September.  He left behind a lovely wife and four young kids.  From what I have heard, he was a guy who loved his job, was devoted to wife and kids, and a faithful Catholic.  Now these kids are left without a Daddy; a big hole has been left in their lives.  His wife writes daily at a Facebook page dedicated to the memory of her husband.  Her strong, unwavering faith are an inspiration to me and the 14,000 some people that follow her (if you need some inspiration, seriously give Amy O'Rourke a read here) ... but, WHY?

A 15 year old boy named David died the beginning of this week from a local all boys Catholic school.  He sounded like the go-to guy; great friend, well liked among his peers, and an awesome talent for sports.  The cause of his death is unknown and now his parents are preparing (if they haven't already) to bury their young son.  WHY?

Why does God allow suffering??  Plain and simple, he doesn't want it...but we live in a fallen world and if God gives us the personal freedom to choose to love him, he has to allow people freely choose to not love him (hence all the sin, sadness, suffering, etc.)
BUT...
amazingly enough our God has made it that he destroyed death, it has no freaking power over us!  Death cannot, does not win!  The Lord will wipe away all the tears of all those who weep and are sorrowful and down cast.  Jesus is SO close to those who suffer and in pain; for he knew truly what it mean to suffer.  His suffering can help us unite our own to his.  I think (just me speaking here) the fact we have a God who truly knows what it means to suffer, helps us along our own trials and pains in life.  No it doesn't completely take it away the pain and frustration and anger, BUT I cannot help but think that going through those valleys with God in some strange, mysterious way has the potential (if we be open to it) to draw us closer to him.

I found it to "interesting" that each week of Advent represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus.  Week 1/candle 1 represents HOPE.  These are just 2 situations I know of where these families/people need some hope.  We all need some hope in life...I mean just watch the local news at night!  One of my most favoritest quotes is from Pope John Paul II, "Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song!" We cannot abandon ourselves to despair!  We must be a people of HOPE.  Just like the candle of this first week of Advent reminds us...

(so all that was the first thing that caught my attention...below is the second thing...)

The priest giving the homily on Wednesday night said something that made me think (here it comes!).  Someone had sent him an e-mail saying that when a priest went to the bedroom of this young man to pray for his soul and with his family, they discovered his bedroom was not like a typical teenagers full of posters of favorite stars or athletes (although those things are not bad either).  They found his Bible and rosary on his bedside table, a crucifix hanging above his bed, and the image of Jesus hugging a baseball player on the wall.  And they the priest said, "you know what's different about David? He didn't wait to become a saint."  Although his life was short, he didn't wait to work on his relationship with God, he took advantage of the one life God gave him to make a difference in this crazy, beautiful world...he took Jesus' call on his life as a disciple seriously.  So then I started thinking about my own life.  First of all, I think sometimes people have this false notion on what it means to be a saint.  Being a saint doesn't mean you are on your knees in prayer for 5 hours a day or walk around with your hands folded and head bowed down....being a saint means recognizing that you quite haven't got your stuff together all on your own, but instead you go to Jesus for more.  One time a friend of mine shared this story from the religious education class she teaches.  In this particular class, they were talking about saints and what it means that each of us is called to be a saint.  So my friend asked her students, "What does it mean to be a saint?"  One little girl raised her hand and said, "I know, I know! I learned from the stained glass windows in church-to be a saint means you let the light shine through." I loved that story and think it sheds light (pun intended ;) on the true meaning of holiness and striving to be a saint.  Striving to be a saint is hard work; it needs to be ongoing through one's entire life....but let THE light (aka Jesus) shine through you...just like how light shines through a stained glass window and illumines the picture and the inside of the church.  And when we strive and keep working in our daily lives to let the light shine through us, that's what being a saint is all about.  Never give up on it...always keep working at it...and don't wait to the end of your life.

So in conclusion?  
1. Pray for those who are suffering (emotionally, physically, or spiritually) that you know of personally and even those you don't know personally this holiday season. 

2. Never lose HOPE!  Cause let's face it, in the end, our guy wins the battle :)

3. Don't wait to be a saint! start today :)




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