Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 347
  
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials….
Uncles and great uncles like me sometimes find amusement in the spectacle of a child about to cry. First there’s the loud bang of the hard little head on the harder table, followed by the surprised look. The mouth is open and the air is sucked in for a long pause. “Here it comes.” somebody says but it’s still a while coming. Several more intakes seem necessary though there is hardly room for more air and none has been released. 

Then finally the outburst of rage against the offending table and the mother, aunt or grandmother who comes running to comfort the suffering whose pain would have subsided already. It’s no longer about pain; it’s the insult to the toddler’s freedom of movement and the expectation of comfort. Without the audience the blow might have been absorbed in silence; or so the great uncle conjectures.
What I observe is the helplessness of the four-year-old in the face of his emotion. He must scream; he must have attention. Something has hurt or disappointed or insulted him and he will not abide it. Consumed with anger he gives vent to his rage.
Of course, the only difference between the toddler and the great uncle is the way we manage our anger. It’s there in either case. I am just as likely to fume and rage when I hit my head on an unforgiving shelf. A part of us never grows past four years old, and there’s no reasoning with a toddler’s emotions.
In today’s first reading, Saint Peter invites the Christian to “rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials.”
Our freedom is there. We have the ability to rejoice in our sufferings despite that initial response of outrage.
That freedom begins with the sufferings we freely choose, the sacrifices we have considered in advance and preferred. Rather than stay abed as long as my body wants, I get up when the alarm goes off, shave, dress and go to breakfast. Questions are not permitted; hesitations are firmly repressed; excuses will not be entertained.
That freedom matures as opportunities present themselves. Perhaps someone has asked a favor. I agree to it immediately. Perhaps someone has neglected the simplest of chores – he left the milk on the table instead of replacing it in the refrigerator – and I put it away. I do that for others and I’m sure they do it for me. If we don’t carry one another’s burden without hesitation and without complaint we will certainly collapse into civil war.
Occasionally we’re asked to make greater sacrifices. We take a cut in pay for the greater good of the company; we relocate when the city builds a highway.
Saint Peter’s people apparently suffered all that and more. They were maligned for being Christians. In his epistle the name seems to be an insult like “cat lickers” or “pro testers.” They were socially ostracized and economically deprived; some may have been arrested and imprisoned. We know there were Christians actually martyred for the faith.
The inner-four-year-old is angry about these insults; we never outgrow that feeling. But, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can baptize these incidents and turn them to blessings. Saint Luke tells us how Saint Peter and Saint John were tortured by the authorities and “left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”
I may not have to suffer those indignities but I can be grateful for the sacrifices I was asked to make and -- much to my own surprise -- did so willingly.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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