Today’s first reading tells of the exodus of the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt; their journey away from death and into the light of hope.
And then today’s Gospel reading tells of the light of hope that dawns on those cured by Jesus, which only hastens Jesus’ own journey towards death.
There is that saying that goes something like: We live in a mystery wrapped in an enigma. How apt that seems as one ponders our journey through life, always reaching toward light and hope even as we are surrounded by loss and the great and small deaths of our existence here on earth.
What makes that journey possible, I believe, is love. Love of God, family, friends, neighbor, self. It is God’s love for the Israelites, for example, that literally brings them out of their suffering to a new beginning rooted in hope. They are not a perfect people, of course, but a people flawed by doubts and inconsistency whom God nevertheless wants to know, intimately, and be known by.
It is a God who loves us so deeply, so profoundly, that a Son is sent to prove for all time that death is not the final word of our human existence. Love is. And so Jesus cures the sick of mind and body, restoring hope to all who feel bereft. These wounded people feel better, are even transformed, not because they have been forever cured and will never die, but because they have been loved. And when they, and we, love God in return, a different kind of eternal life is granted to our weary hearts.
Today is my mom’s birthday, deceased now for several years. I’ve mentioned her before in my reflections on July 16th. She was both tough and tender, scrappy and vulnerable. She never looked back, except to tell stories in the grand Irish way. She didn’t care much for regret, which could be maddening and perplexing. She always looked ahead. When my father died and I wanted to visit the grave, she said in a somewhat surprising way, "Why? I never think of him as being out there."
In this rather unsentimental, simple way my mom was saying something profound. We are a people on the move from darkness to light. Loss, even death, does not define us, for we are certainly more than what rests in a wooden box at the end of our days. While on earth, we live in hope. We keep at it – tough one day, bruised the next – but we journey on. And is the love that we experience in our lives and through our faith that makes new life possible as we journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, away from death and into a new light.
Nancy Nickel is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.