Ordinary Time 16, Year B
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15)
I am afraid my reflection of two weeks ago, the one with the title, “He comforts us in all our afflictions,” was long on affliction and short on comfort. Perhaps I made use of it simply to express my pains and sorrows, which could have prompted someone to send me this consoling comment:
- While I do not disagree with anything here and certainly
- can say I share in the experiences and emotions,
- I—as usual—would like to inject some light and joy into
- the mix of life. After all, Jesus spent a good deal
- of time talking about the “good news,” the living water,
- and told us over and over not to be afraid, or feel sad
- and alone, because he is with us as is the Holy Spirit.
- So, while there is much suffering, there is also joy,
- hope, comfort, and I believe in keeping them in the
- equation always, along with mountains of gratitude.
She is right, of course, the person who sent me this comment. No doubt, the follower of Jesus is asked to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstance (1 Thes. 5:16-18; Phil. 4:4). The true Christian is precisely one who has every reason to give up but does not do so. As is made clear in 2 Cor. 4:8-19, the true Christian remains confident in the midst of afflictions. The true Christian suffers, yes, and she admits it, so that her confidence does not indicate her being in denial. She acknowledges that she lives in a world not altogether different from the one that is portrayed in Mark’s gospel (cf. Brendan Byrne, S.J., “The Scariest Gospel,” the May 29, 2006 issue of America).
The world of the Christian is the same one where there is much need for teaching, preaching, healing and exorcisms. In this world, the strong man continues to impose and rallies support against the teachings and works of Christ (cf. Mk. 6:27)—as demonstrated, I think, by current wars and violent conflicts in which is lost, it seems, all sense, not only of Christian prohibition against revenge, but also of the strict justice demanded by Talion’s law that specifies an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and not two or more eyes or teeth for an eye or a tooth. And, of course, there is no lack in this world of people who are like sheep without a shepherd.
But just as I have said I have been reminded in a comment recently received, not to worry, notwithstanding one’s precarious situation in the world. The world where the Christian lives is yet ripe, yes, for the changes that are presupposed by repentance and faith, for this is the time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God is at hand. The Christian can count on the saving presence of the one who “is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” The Christian recognizes the presence of the good Shepherd, of someone who is stronger (cf. Mk. 1:27). The good Shepherd’s heart is moved with pity for those who find themselves lost in a threatening world, and he gathers them from the lands where they have wandered. He leads them back to their meadows so that they may increase and multiply. He teaches them at length and they will remain calm, no longer fearing and trembling.
The Gerasenes who saw the effective work of exorcism Jesus had done were seized with fear and began to beg him to leave their district (Mk. 5:15-17). The true Christian, on the other hand, is not afraid of Jesus or of his words and deeds. The true Christian embraces Jesus and carries about in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in her body (2 Cor. 4:10). And thus in this way, the true Christian brings to light the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
In my pains and sorrows, I received, I believe, from the one who had sent me the above-mentioned consoling comment this knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. St. Vincent de Paul wondered at the greatness of divine goodness as he recalled St. Francis de Sales exuding so much goodness. In a similar manner, I would like to say I am filled with wonder at the greatness of Christ’s compassion.