Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
In the hospital ministry I meet a lot of people who are suffering with pain. It may be a sharp, stabbing pain in a certain part of the body, or an acute pervasive discomfort throughout the body.
Some patients suffer in silence; others complain loudly; a few will complain their rights are being violated.
Recently that "right" threatens to become political as we address the epidemic of opioid abuse. For a brief moment some experts believed medicine could abolish all pain with a judicious application of “pain killers.” I have seen patients who, according to the doctors, were taking “enough pain medicine to kill a horse;” they groaned in agony and demanded more relief. One patient could not bear to be touched. Apparently the effort to eliminate all pain only made them more sensitive. Alcoholics and drug addicts, unfortunately, choose a path that only leads to increasing sensitivity, accelerating hunger for relief, overdose and death. In some cases, it seems, the only cure for pain is death.
In today’s gospel Jesus promises his disciples, “…you will grieve.” There is no escaping it. The effort is worse than a fool’s errand.
The Christian’s specific grief follows from knowing the Lord. We have enjoyed the ecstasy of his company; we must now suffer the agony of his absence.
The mystics tell us they are the same thing, two sides of the same coin. The measure of your joy is the measure of your sadness. When Jesus promises the fullness of life he offers us that two-sided coin, but not a choice of which side we prefer.
As a Franciscan I contemplate the life of Saint Francis of Assisi with the same intensity that I read the gospels, and I recall his passionate love of “Lady Poverty.” When everyone despised, avoided and shunned her, he courted, betrothed and wedded her. He knew her as the widow of Jesus Christ, abandoned since the day he died but now honored in the houses of Franciscans.
In our own time, still fleeing poverty, the world adds failure, disappointment, loneliness, frustration and pain to the list of untouchables. Marketers assure us we should be happy, satisfied, secure and pain free all the time. If we’re not there is something wrong and what are you going to do about it? (Buy my product!)
Jesus promised his disciples, “…you will grieve.” If you have known the Lord you know grief. If you have known compassion you suffer helpless sadness. You have seen your savior lifted on a cross and there was nothing you could do about it. You have seen your children and grandchildren make foolish, unnecessary mistakes and you were helpless to prevent it. You have expressed your opinion clearly and been accused of narrow-minded arrogance and stupidity. You have tried to alleviate poverty and been rebuked by this world’s wisdom. You have allowed the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions and could not explain why things ended so badly.
As the season of Lent/Easter comes to an end, we accept as gift this two-sided coin of life in its fullness.

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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.