Fr. Gerard’s Weekly Column: 2/4/24

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest of Civil War battles. In just three days, between 46,000 and 51,000 lives were lost. I recently read a reflection from someone who had visited the battleground and, reflecting on the experience, he wrote, “It seemed as though the very ground still cried out from its drenching in blood. Just think of the parents, widows, and orphaned children that wept over these casualties. Nature itself still groans in agony.” When I see the images of the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, I can’t but help to think that these bloody battles of our day will forever impact the people and places that lament and cry out over such suffering.

Today’s first reading is taken from the Book of Job. This text belongs to the Jewish wisdom traditions and is widely regarded as one of the Old Testament’s finest reflections on the problem of suffering, especially the suffering of the innocent. In today’s first reading, we hear Job, the pious and righteous man who has been suddenly and inexplicitly stricken with personal tragedy, in the depths of despair: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? … Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” For much of the storyline, Job and his friends struggle to find meaning in his suffering. They are unable to find any good news in the recent events of Job’s life. Like so many who suffer today, they long to hear where God may be present in their suffering.

When such suffering occurs on a grand scale or in the micro-experience of an individual, it seems that the grief is responded to with indifference and even intolerance. Those who suffer feel compelled to stifle their sorrow. Yet, just as the Gettysburg visitor reflected, nature itself cannot seem to contain grief. The Book of Psalms, as well as other scriptural passages, features what are referred to as lamentations, deep expressions of sorrow or grief. Suppressing our pain is not healthy or natural. A time to come together and weep out our pain and grief could be so healing. The lament calls down the compassionate love of God. As we hear in today’s Psalm, “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Groups that support the bereaved and suffering are a safe place to lament and cry out within the context of others who share in similar sorrow. The whole church, however, is called to listen and respond to sorrow. As we see time and again in the Gospels, light always overcomes darkness. The Gospels show that the howling dirge is always the precursor to shouted and sung alleluias!

SCOUT SUNDAY – The twelfth point of the Scout Law is A Scout is Reverent. In addition, in their oaths, Scouts profess a duty to God. Today we show that the church’s mission into the environment is an important aspect of ministering to young people. So, we welcome them to mass today and encourage them to continue to allow scouting to assist them in their moral, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual growth. We express our thanks as well to leaders and all parents who support the mission and ministry of scouting in the church.

WORLD MARRIAGE DAY – Next weekend, at every mass, we will offer the church’s blessing to all married couples. We pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen marriages and families as they continue to witness sacrificial love to the world.