Third Sunday of Easter

Lectionary: 46

Realize that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.

He was known before the foundation of the world  
but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

The word futile comes up occasionally in health care. Everyone must die and there comes a time when certain treatments -- medicines, surgeries, and therapies -- that work for healthier patients should not be given to dying patients. They would only cause more stress and suffering even if they prolonged the patient's life for a few hours or days. That kind of care is called futile.

It's not always clear to everyone what care would be futile. Doctors, families and patients may disagree. Doubts, fears and suspicions arise in the hearts and minds of those involved. Sometimes the professionals may administer certain protocols just to ease the mind of the patient or his people. It's better to err on the side of life. 

Some old people refuse treatments that would relieve distress because they figure they won't live long enough to make it worth the expense. The family, doctor or minister might ask, "But you don't know that, do you? You might live another twenty years and this knee- or hip-replacement will make those twenty years far more comfortable!" And what is expensive in the service of life? That's what money is for! 

Some people might say the word futile should never come up in the discussion about human life, but Saint Peter reminded his disciples of the futility of their past way of life which they inherited from their ancestors! Not only you, but your parents and grandparents spent your lives in vain, pointless, unprincipled and useless effort. 

The Psalmist asks, "How long, O people, will you be hard of heart? Why do you love what is worthless and chase after lies?"

There's no need to be scandalized by the question; it's very familiar to the Old Testament. "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!" said Qoheleth. "I uselessly spent my strength" cried the Isaiah's suffering servant. And Job cursed the day he was born for forty chapters! 

In the United States the question of futility has yet to appear in partisan politics but that may be coming soon. The plagues of suicide and death by overdose tell us that millions of Americans find no meaning in a life touched with disappointment, loneliness or pain. Rare is the family, business or church that has not been challenged by a member's decision to terminate her life; leaving the rest to pick up the pieces and start again. The VA is daily shaken by an average of 22 suicides among Veterans. 

While the federal government is hamstrung by its own futility, cities and counties are addressing the issues without partisanship but we don't seem to be making headway. Is the pursuit of happiness  another vanity of vanities? 

As a hospital chaplain I meet dying patients whose only ambition is to live a few more weeks or months. They want to see something specific; the birth of a first grandchild, the graduation or marriage of a daughter, or a fiftieth wedding anniversary. Then, they suppose, they'll be content to die. Often they manage that goal and they are satisfied! 

But human life is not about goals and ambitions; nor is there an explanation for human life. If you find a religious or philosophical reason to live, you probably won't find it persuasive. 

Realize that you were ransomed... not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.
Eating the Precious Body of the Lord and drinking his Precious Blood we find the one who is our way, truth and life. Jesus is not a reason, explanation or goal to be attained. He is the Savior who takes each of us by the hand and leads us on a step-by-step, day-by-day journey out of futility. He walks with us, as we heard in today's gospel; and while he walks with us our hearts are burning within us with delight and satisfaction.  He is the Life we live, the Truth we believe and the Way we must follow. 

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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.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.