Tuesday greetings to all.
The past few weeks have not been easy ones for me, for a number of reasons. At the tail end of my trip to Italy, I received an e-mail from my sister, letting us all know that her cancer, which has been fairly well "contained" for the past four years, has spread to her spinal column (later we found out that it has also appeared in her skull and ribcage). This was deeply troubling news, of course. I had a long conversation with a good friend of mine, a believing Catholic, about all of this. I said that as I have grown older, I have learned to live my life in a way that celebrates fully those moments, places, people, and times when my heart is filled with joy. And to let those moments of grief and sadness be times of feeling that grief deeply and that sadness acutely. In other words, I can't let the sad news diminish the joy, nor let the great joys obliterate the sadness. Ironically, approaching my life in this way has resulted in a certain even-ness of spirit and mental outlook.
As I spoke these words on Saturday, I couldn't help but recall a conversation I had recently with the husband of a woman who has unfortunately lived with three debilitating diseases in her life. "How," he asked me, "can a loving God give my wife these three diseases? She is such a good person with so much to give; why would God do this to her?" Of course, I know that God does not "give" anyone diseases. But as I sat there with this struggling man, I knew that there were no ready answers for him. And I told him so. I told him that it just was aweful. But I also told him that they both were surrounded by people, family, and a parish that loves them. His was a simple question, without a simple answer.
And all of this comes to a head this morning as we see images and hear reports about the unimaginable devastation in Oklahoma wrought by tornadoes. Parents of dead children are asking those same questions, all revolving around that one word: "Why?"
So, here I am left with the fact that I have been preaching and teaching about the immensity of God's reconciling love and, at the same time, trying to work through ultimate questions about the nature of God and the mystery of sickness and evil. I guess this is the kind of thing that keeps a person of faith going; engaging in the challenging and very difficult questions. It was all so much easier when I was younger and people around me didn't have cancer, when natural disasters seemed so much farther away, both physically and emotionally, when the world seemed to me more of a place of goodness and peace.
Feeling the movements of the 22nd Psalm today, which begins:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
Like water my life drains away; all my bones grow soft.
My heart has become like wax, it melts away within me.
As dry as a potsherd is my throat;
my tongue sticks to my palate;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Then goes on:
Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me.
So wasted are my hands and feet
that I can count all my bones.
But then ends with this:
For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly;
my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
Feel like my own life is buried somewhere in the words of this psalm today.
Let's pray for all who suffer, especially today for those in Oklahoma.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.