September 30, 2014
(St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church)
Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. . . .
Why did I not perish at birth . . .
Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave: Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
Often we may seem to be glorifying life as some paradise to be lived when we follow the Lord. Yes, there are times when it may seem that way. But more than likely, if we are truly following the Lord, we’ll find just the opposite. Knowing the evils that we should be avoiding, their temptation becomes even greater when we follow the Lord. Accidents, diseases, fires, storms, job loss, separation, and extraordinary struggle against sin, they all seem to happen to us!
But remember, beloved, they happened to most holy Job and St. Jerome and to St. Paul. They happened to the martyrs, the missionaries and even to Jesus himself. In reality, they happen to the good and bad alike. We just happen to take special notice of the misfortunes of “the good” and the prosperity of “the bad,” because we expect some special justice, some God-given exemption from the evils of the world we live in.
And yet! And yet it gets very deep. Where is the hope of the non-believer, the unjust, the evil ones? Is their hope in death just the end of the struggle? No more pain? And then what was the point of it all? I lived, I killed, I suffered and I died – no heaven, no hell – just OVER! But what if?
What if there really is MORE after death. What if all the saints and Jesus and God were right? What if there IS a heaven and a hell – for ETERNITY! Yes, we all suffer to differing degrees. And we all, eventually, will die. But IF we truly believe in the resurrection that Jesus, in reality, showed us, then it puts a whole different twist on the entire picture of LIFE. No, suffering is not easy, whether we’re good or bad! No, death is not a TRUE desire, whether we’re good or bad (or else there would be a lot more suicides in the world than the 0.02% statistics tell us, since it is something anyone can do). But, IF we have this hope for “eternal life in heaven,” then we can take our suffering and turn it into something totally different.
Since we think that death will be difficult, even IF we are suffering and may look forward to it, then maybe that suffering is actually preparing us for something that’s a lot less difficult than we think. Maybe like the athlete in training who jumps or runs or skates or lifts EVERY DAY as hard, if not harder, than she or he will actually have to do in the true competition in order to win; maybe our suffering is our preparation that will make death bearable instead of unbearable and hopeless. It will make this whole life have more purpose. The good things will be more magnificent, the challenges will become stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks and the suffering will bring us the strength and the hope that Life WILL unquestionably get better instead of just ending – Jesus promised us that!
And no one is immune from that hope, beloved.
Not until death do us part!
(Suicide statistics from www.suicide.org)
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