Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heaven"

Time is a funny thing. Even though it was only Sunday, it seems like forever since I last posted.I am tempted to make this post one of those entries where the writer lists his complaints is an off-beat intentionally humorous way in an effort to laugh away his feelings, but I am not going to do that. Rather, I am going to point to the need we have to worship God, to always and everywhere give Him thanks through Christ our Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the things I frequently get to do as a pastoral minister is to give others advice, counsel, suggestions on how to deal with the challenges they face. So far this year I have had numerous and on-going opportunities to follow my own counsel, which is what keeps what I share with others (hopefully) from being abstract theories about which I have read, or, even worse, empty clichés and pious platitudes that help no one, but sound good perhaps to me in the moment, but leave both people feeling empty and dissatisfied. That the Lord is not just good, but is Goodness is axiomatic, a given, an atomic statement, everything prescinds from this, which is why each time we participate in the Eucharist, we are invited to taste and see His goodness by eating and drinking Him. This is reality at its most fundamental and concrete.

I am grateful this morning that Morning Prayer began with Psalm 36, which includes this strophé: "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heaven; your truth to the skies. Your justice is like God's mountain, your judgments like the deep."

In light of a long conversation I had last night with someone struggling with what I can only describe as a great evil before encountering my own comparatively minor tribulation, I was thinking again of the Holy Father's magnificent encyclical Spe Salvi, to which I turned for my homily on the beatitudes a few weeks ago. This morning I re-read paragraph 37, which begins-

"We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.."

Not being content to give us an abstract answer to the most existential and urgent human question, after invoking the Cross, Pope Benedict proceeds to cite an amazing and challenging passage written by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857):

"I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is for ever (Ps 136 [135]). The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me ... How am I to bear with the spectacle, as each day I see emperors, mandarins, and their retinue blaspheming your holy name, O Lord, who are enthroned above the Cherubim and Seraphim? (cf. Ps 80:1 [79:2]). Behold, the pagans have trodden your Cross underfoot! Where is your glory? As I see all this, I would, in the ardent love I have for you, prefer to be torn limb from limb and to die as a witness to your love. O Lord, show your power, save me, sustain me, that in my infirmity your power may be shown and may be glorified before the nations ... Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God, from whom every good proceeds; bless the Lord with me, for his mercy is for ever..."
In the combox of my last post, responding to a comment on the redness of my blog, I stated that it is the color of the Holy Spirit and of martyrs, that is, of spirit and blood, which why this morning I implore- St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, holy martyr, pray for us. Yesterday we remebered St. Josephine Bakita, whose story the Holy Father also relates in Spe Salvi. So, we implore her as well: St. Josephine Bakita, pray for us.


  1. Thank-you! Your words resonated with me this evening. My mom wrote that God used her suffering to temper the raw material of her self into usable steel. It was written in the scrap book she had made for me and which I found after her death. May God grant me the strength to open myself to life and love despite the suffering.

  2. That is truly lovely. It is not despite the suffering, as your Mom understood, but precisely through it that God works. Your Mom's words put me in mind of this passage:

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (emboldening emphasis mine- 1 Peter 1:3-9).


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