|A fallen tree waits to settle|
to the Earth from which it sprang.
have you cast judah off completely? is zion loathsome to you? why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? we wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. we recognize, o lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you.
There are a half-dozen penitential psalms in the Bible's collection, but about fifty psalms of personal and communal lamentation. The Jewish people, in continual contact with God, learned to do penance for their sins; but more importantly, they learned to grieve.
In mid-summer, on this feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, we hear Jeremiah's complaint about the destruction of Jerusalem. This is an ancient, sad memory of terror, horror and grief, followed by centuries of displacement. Though they would always call Jerusalem their home, most Jews would never see the city.
As Christians we have inherited their grief. We honor it as we pray the psalms during our Masses, Sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours. These prayers teach us to pray with God's holy people, those who lived thousands of years ago, and those who are yet to be born. On any given day this or that psalm might not reflect my own personal experience, but it does reflect our experience, and the psalms of lamentation especially express our grief. With maturity we see our own disappointments and travails within the History of Salvation. Even during the summer months when our life might be just a little bit easier, we cannot forget or neglect the sadness of our forebears.
Fidelity to them does not permit us to think that life is or should be always joyous, simple or easy. It does not permit us the illusion that we or our culture or the world have outgrown the suffering of the past. We know that hard times will come around again and again. If we are permitted enough pleasure to sustain us we are grateful for that, but we don't suppose that pleasure or privilege should be our patrimony.
Our patron saint of the day, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, urged his followers,
- "During times of desolation, remember your consolation."
- Though I feel wasted and useless now, though I am overwhelmed with pain, grief, sorrow, guilt or shame, I remember that I have enjoyed goodness. And,
- "During times of consolation, remember your desolation."
- I am grateful for these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer but I know hard times will return. I can use this blessing not for waste or profligacy but to atone for my sins, restore my energies, renew my commitments, and prepare to make sacrifice to our Good God.