This Sunday many of us will gather in Church or over livestream to encounter the loving and saving presence of Christ. We will encounter this presence in His Word, in music, in prayer, in each other, and in the Eucharist. As we do so, we will be invited reflect on the goodness of our faith.
Perhaps when we count the blessings of our faith (especially in times like what we have all been facing this past year) we can identify well with the experience of Peter, James, and John who were so struck with the encounter of the Transfiguration they declared, “it is good we are here.” We may identify with them when reflecting on times in our lives when God felt close, or when we received an answer to a long awaited prayer, or perhaps through a retreat experience or encounter with someone who inspired you.
When reflecting on other times in our lives, we may also be able to identify with Abraham and Isaac when we think of how life can sometimes ask more of us than we want or feel able to give; those times when we are asked to go through situations that simply do not make any sense to us, yet we are nevertheless asked to trust in God. Perhaps this happens in times when our prayers are not answered in the timeframe or the way we hoped they would be answered. Or perhaps when tragedy or illness strike and knock us on our knees. It is in times like this that we are reminded of our need for God.
The good news of our faith is that God never abandons us. Even in times when God seems absent, if we remain open to seeing Him, we often discover Him as He reveals in other ways such as answered prayers, blessings, and people, memories of how God has worked in the past, and Mass. It is this hope that helps us join with St. Paul in the midst of both the good times and the challenging times of life in declaring “if God is for us, who can be against us?” For if the God of the universe and all of creation is for us, who or what life circumstance can really be against us?
Perhaps this testimony is exemplified so well by Saint Rita, who faced tremendous difficulties in life and turned them over one by one to hope in the power of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. A hope which propelled her own appeal and faithfulness to God’s way of patience, peace, trust, and reconciliation when asked to carry many crosses in life.
As I was prayerfully reflecting on Saint Rita and what God might be asking me to preach on this Sunday, I couldn’t help but reflect on the life of Father Jim Thompson, O.S.A. Fr. Jim was an Augustinian Friar from Chicago who entered eternal life this past Thursday. He was an Augustinian priest who over the years suffered from a degenerative eye disease that gradually took away his vision.
What I found to be so inspirational about Father Jim was that as his vision of the physical world faded, his vision of the power of our faith seemed to only get brighter. He never lost his resolve to exercise his ministry. Even as his disease placed new challenges on his path of discipleship, even as he became more reliant on others to exercise the ministry he was called to, he never ceased finding new ways to spread the good news of our faith and bring hope to others. He was a model for younger Friars like myself on how to go and do likewise with our own struggles.
In 2014, CBS news Chicago conducted an interview with Father Jim. The interview was titled, Someone You Should Know. In the interview, when reflecting on the experience of being a blind hospital chaplain, Father Jim labeled himself “a wounded healer.”
Perhaps our journey through Lent is an opportunity to reflect on how we too can be wounded healers in our world as we carry our own crosses in hope of the power of the Resurrection we will celebrate this coming Easter. In his commentary on Psalm 148, Saint Augustine taught that the days before Easter signify the life that we live now with all its trials and troubles. The days after Easter signify the happy days that lie beyond death.
As we participate in the liturgy this weekend, whether in Church or via livestream at home, may we experience the loving and saving presence of Christ in the midst of our modern day fears, worries, and challenges. A presence made possible through the glorious Resurrection we look forward to celebrating this Easter. Yet a presence brought to us now on this second Sunday of Lent, to strengthen us to continue the journey of carrying our own crosses in life towards the hope of the Resurrection.
As we are strengthened by this presence, may we pray for the grace to follow the example of Saint Rita and faith leaders like Fr. Jim Thompson, to be wounded healers in our own homes, our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods. For the world is looking for the kind of hope, peace, healing, and reconciliation our faith offers.
Lord, it is good to be here. If you are for us, who can be against us? That is good news we can trust in today!