Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Last June, in the course of just one week, I listened to the stories of pain that came at me from varied people. A brave but anxious mother pleading for my prayers for her young son about to endure yet another cancer-fighting surgery.
Just after a morning Mass, I learned from a younger but calm mother that the Mass had been offered for her ba- by who had only lived for a week.
Another plea from a friend desperate for a new job. A woman religious superior needing the strength to make an unpopular decision.
Not every week is like that for us priests, but many are similar. It is the suffering of the sheep presented to us weak shepherds in the hope that somehow our prayers are special. Somehow superior to their own. Of course, that last supposition is not true. But they trust that our calling gives us a special connection to the divine Caller.
For our part, how often we have wished that we had the miraculous power of Jesus so that we could bring the relief He brought to the poor deaf man in today’s account from St. Mark. I tell you these things as just some examples of the pain in this life, lived in this world, and how our yearning is for the relief and joy Christ promised us in the next.
Of course, there is real joy in this world, not to be denied. But there is always the tinge of sadness knowing that many of our joys are temporary, like the arrival of December 26 and the martyrdom of St. Stephen that our Liturgy presents us on the day after Christmas.
Part of the reason that good trusting people come to us, their priests, is a presumption that somehow we are closer to God than they. It is largely an unfounded assumption. Believe me, we know that many of the people in the pews are closer to God than the vested people at the altar. We know it because we know their struggles and their faith. Yours also.
It is precisely because of our Baptism that we can claim to be God’s adopted children, and rely on our inner strength to live life with confidence and trust no matter what twists and turns life takes. Furthermore, we are members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, with Jesus as the Head. There is nothing that can overwhelm us or drive away our opti- mism, unless we let it.
When each of us acts like what we are in that context, living fortified by our reception of Confirmation, goodness mul- tiplies. We don’t deny the headlines and their record of human disregard for fellow humans, the ugliness of violence, abuse, and the destruction of life in the form of mass slayings like abortion and “ethnic cleansing.”
We just have to remember that God is still in charge, and that even our worst sins can be forgiven.
Tomorrow we honor all those who work for a living with our annual end-of-summer holiday, Labor Day. A virus called Covid 19 made us newly aware of the dedicated work of often unnamed first responders and emergency work- ers, doctors and nurses, police and firefighters, delivery truck drivers, grocery store staffers.
We also noticed anew the services of our plumbers and painters, carpenters and car mechanics, street cleaners and dry cleaners, and service workers of all kinds. They showcased our interdependence, and that’s a good thing. Aligned with them are all who labor in our Church to make it functional as well as faith-filled. The foundation of it all is Love, and God, the gospel tells us, is Love itself. It flourishes everywhere, in ways big and small.
Once upon a time there was a middle-aged business executive who approached the front entrance of the office build- ing in which he worked. A young feminist came up at the same moment, so he stepped back and held the door open for her to pass on through. Whereupon she turned and looked at him and said with annoyance, “Don’t hold the door for me just because I’m a lady.” To her surprise, he looked right back and replied, “I’m not. I’m holding it open because I’m a Christian gentleman.