“This great God, who became man and wanted to suffer for us, is nearer to you than you are to yourselves.” -From the Letters of St. Paul of the Cross
Remember, that the “nearness” goes with you through whoever crosses your path today.
The first two lines of today’s Gospel sum up so much of my life experiences, as the experiences of the disciples’ who had gathered with Jesus in Galilee. The gathering seems to indicate a growing sense of security and power. A few of them had just witnessed the appearances of Moses and Elijah with Jesus. Others had witnessed the recent healings, and, of course, the multiplication of bread and fish for thousands. And, yet, when Jesus tells them the truth, and He relates that He will be “handed over to men,” He lets them know that being the Messiah means embracing suffering. They are “overwhelmed with grief.”
While the “wonderful things” that God accomplishes catch our imagination, the disappointments, the losses, the injustices and the grieving in which we participate, often in others, can really be hard to face, and scary to address.
We have the experiences of two women to attest to life’s extreme difficulties.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal, mother of 4, loses her husband in a hunting accident and is pulled under by the riptide of grief and anger. She chose not to ignore her pain but shared it with family, God, and her spiritual director, Francis de Sales, and eventually, the man who killed her husband. Later she would offer this advice: “Put yourself very simply before God.”
The other is none other than Eunice Shriver, the fifth of nine children of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, and foundress of Special Olympics. She died on August 11, 2009.
She believed in the full humanity of all those with disabilities and would lead her to dedicate much of her life to their cause and the inauguration of the first Special Olympics in Chicago, 1968, only weeks after the assassination of her brother, Robert Kennedy. The Special Olympics oath simply states, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Once, speaking to the Olympians she said, “You are the stars and world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope, a message of victory.”
Re-read Moses’ code of conduct contained in today’s selection from Deuteronomy, and understand its extreme relevance for today, especially at our international borders. Indeed, God’s nearness within you makes all the difference for someone.
Fr. Paddy Gilger, S.J. helped me write this.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., will reside in the Holy Name Community of Passionists in Houston, Texas, effective September 2019.