Sunday, April 02, 2006

Jn 12:27

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour." (Jn 12:27)

I remember, vividly, reading the story of a girl. She was beautiful, she was young, and she had all life ahead of her. She went out one night in her car when she collided head on with a drunk driver. The car caught fire, and she couldn't get out. The fire claimed practically every discernable feature on her body, including an eye lid which caused her to have to have eye drops put in many, many times a day.

The point I deduce from today's Gospel is that of purpose. It's easy to forget purpose but not so easy to remember it, not even with somebody's help. How many times have we tried to tell someone who was looking to a glorious future ahead but who fell on the hardest of times and now can't find work that his life still has purpose? Or the girl who was so badly maimed? But this is one of the things Christ is telling us to do by word and example.

Instead of falling on hard times unexpectedly, Christ sees on the horizon that He is going to have to die a most painful and ignominious death. Nevertheless, He says that there is still purpose to His life, and that not only that but it is this future He sees which is His purpose. Do we, when presented with despair, try and remember that maybe there is some purpose beyond what we see to these trials? Do we try and alert others to that?

There are just some things about God we won’t understand until we leave this world. One of these is absolutely why this or that happened. Even when we do understand that all bad that is happening to us has some purpose for God, we won’t often won’t be able to see the purpose or anything good that is resulting from out misfortunes. Do we then say “God, deliver me from this hour”? More often then not I think we do.

In the Stations of the Cross, which hopefully we’ve all been to once or twice this Lent, we petition at each station to God, “grant that I may love you always and then do with me what thou wilt.” This is the proper, and therefore, hard attitude to have towards our suffering, great or small. Do we integrate that into our lives, or do we leave it aside as one of those things we say in church? Are we Christians by swallowing our fears of how the other person might take it and tell our friends that despite their predicament, there is still so much beauty and purpose to their life? It’s too easy to say that we will but then not to when faced with it.

As children of God we are supposed to be the fertile soil for plants to grow in, we are supposed to be the vine that is in Christ, we are supposed to be soft clay that can be molded into what God wills. Let’s never forget that sometimes in order to be that soil, vine, or that clay, sometimes we are called to undergo the most wretched and seemingly absurd trials. This is God’s purpose, and just like a director who cuts off a movie at the end with a though-provoking cliffhanger, we wonder where God is going with this. Let it be sufficient to us that it is God’s plan.

Again, it is so hard to trust that trials and tribulations can be part of God. Why would He do that? How are we supposed to worship a god who would do that? Where is the purpose? We have a patron in Heaven who can help us persevere in God’s will, and his name begins with “Job”.

But what’s possibly even harder is discerning what is God’s purpose working in our lives and what is our own bad decisions. Excessive drinking, it’s easy enough to tell, is not God’s will. I don’t thing that the drunk driver who crashed his car into a girl’s car thought he was doing God‘s will. But what of the more sublime things in life that are affecting us badly? Are they a test of faith given by God or are they the hallmark of our own humanity?

As we get closer to the end of this season of Lent, let’s pray that we might always bear our light and severe trials as something God might use to glorify His name and draw others to Him. Also, let’s pray for the wisdom to see what is our own frailty and what is genuine suffering foretold by Christ, and to change, as this season calls us to do. Eternal life waits at the end of temporary suffering. Let’s persevere, and like the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says of Christ, “learn obedience from what He suffered”.