February – half way through the work year, half way through the school year. The dead of winter. Cold and tired, I sometimes feel like burrowing into a cave and hibernating until spring calls me forth. Instead I must face the February "blues." And I find that the readings of today may have been chosen to help us to do just that.
The author of Hebrews encourages his listeners to brace themselves. He calls on them to remember times past, when in the joy of their conversion they lived in delight and happiness. He reminds them, however, that those times were followed by periods of suffering, even of public abuse and affliction. And at other times they joined in the sufferings of others, joyfully accepting the losses and pain that such sharing brought to them, for they knew that they "had a better and lasting possession"- their faith and trust in eternal life with Jesus Christ. So now, in this time of their present weariness and discouragement, he urges them to recall that faith and trust:
"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
It will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what He has
Today I think our times too can often weary and discourage us. We experience crises and scandals in our church that seem to be without remedy and without end. Moreover, when I look at myself, I get even more discouraged. I ask myself what have I really done to help resolve these issues. Yes, I have stood publicly with some of those suffering at the hands of the hierarchy and the Vatican – our Sisters, for example. But have I done enough for our priests and theologians threatened with excommunications? Have I tried to dialogue with authorities on these issues; not in defiance, but in the spirit of St. Paul: "Speak the truth to one another, honestly, in love"? In these past months I have witnessed many lay people speaking openly in ways that both put me to shame and call me forth, like the author of Hebrews, to renew my confidence and trust.
Then in the Gospel, with His parables on the Kingdom of God, Jesus Himself renews our confidence and trust. First, He assures us that the seed of faith planted in our hearts grows quietly in us each day, even while we sleep. We can trust that it will be full and ripe at harvest time. Secondly, the Kingdom of God is like the tiny mustard seed. Once sown in our hearts, it enables us to become sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ. Through us, it spreads His love and truth to all whom we meet each day, building the Kingdom of God. So strengthening me, Jesus Himself calls me forth not only to meet and but even to embrace the February blues.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.