……from your Pastor’s Desk

Reflection on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.
Book of Job

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147

Four hundred lights suddenly illuminated the Lincoln Reflecting Pool as the sun set over our national monuments in Washington D.C. the night before the presidential inauguration, in the United States.

The haunting voice of a young nurse rang out, breaking the solemn silence. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” she sang as she had in her Michigan hospital to comfort dying Covid patients separated from their families.

I broke into tears. Like everyone I know.

For the past year, we have been living the Book of Job. “My life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” No one is unscathed. I thought especially of the husband of my dear friend Jane who died a couple of weeks ago. He spent the summer in agony because her nursing home banned visitors due to Covid. We’re all mourning someone.

However, as people of faith, we believe that despair isn’t the last word. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” says Psalm 147, which immediately follows Job in the Mass readings.

I’m no Pollyanna but I believe in the resurrection. I do NOT believe that a loving God inflicts suffering on the innocent for some cosmic reason. That would be cruel. However, since suffering is inevitable, we can learn lessons about empathy and resilience from it.

As a young reporter, I wrote a lot of stories about tragedies – it goes with the territory. And I wrote still more stories about people who had emerged from their own tragedies determined to give their horrors meaning by doing something good for others.

Given the choice, they would never have been sexually assaulted, lost a child, been paralyzed or had to flee their homeland. But they refused to believe that they would “not see happiness again.” Instead, they became God’s instruments for healing other brokenhearted people.

These were people of empathy more than compassion who did not sugar coat their own losses or those of others. Their empathy was hard won because they had, unfortunately, lived the Book of Job. But through faith and the “amazing grace” of which the young nurse sang, they managed to rise from the ashes.

And we can too. May God heal our brokenness.

Eileen Wirth

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