Meditation on the readings for March 16, 2015
Isaiah 65: 17-21; Psalms 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11-12a, 13b; John 4: 43-54
In today’s reading Isaiah writes of the new heaven and new earth, which those who seek to know and honor the Lord will experience. Certainly the world free of all pain and suffering that is described is not yet a reality, but I believe that if we accept the good news that Jesus proclaimed, we can experience so much of this joy right now. We can, and should be, a delightful and joyful people who do not remember the painful things of the past. Yes, even in Lent!
I think that we Christians too often speak of the necessity of suffering in our lives. In fact, I cringe and think “Here we go again.” everytime I hear this message, or come across it in my spiritual readings. Although Jesus did ask us to take up our cross and follow Him, He also said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Why can’t we emphasize this?
The psalm for today says, “At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing…You changed my mourning into dancing; O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”
Of course, “Life is difficult.” as Father Pat likes to say. Mature Christians need to see their difficulties, trials, and suffering as things that will strengthen their character and cause them to turn to God for help. There is a time and place for counsel and guidance to help a brother or sister through a difficult period. I am not saying that such times of trial should be made light of or even denied. The last thing the person who is suffering needs to hear is “This is nothing. Cheer up!” What I am trying to say here is that, to the outsider, it appears that our faith journey consists solely in the way of the cross. We as Christians can get too hung up on our weeping at nightfall and miss the opportunity to share the rejoicing at dawn.
I also do not want to say that during Lent and the Easter Triduum, we should not let our beings become fully immersed in the passion of Christ. This is after all the core of our faith. But let’s not forget, “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
One of the songs we sing at our Residents Encounter Christ (REC) retreats in NY prisons is “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” I first learned this song many years ago at our Hosanna prayer meetings. In those days our meetings felt like large revival meetings, as we sang enthusiastically: “I have decided to follow Jesus…, no turning back, no turning back.”
Recently, while rehearsing this song for an upcoming REC retreat, I noticed the second and third verses on our homemade song sheets: “2. It’s persecution to follow Jesus… 3. It’s tribulation to follow Jesus…” I did not remember these verses from the songbooks we used in Hosanna and suggested to the retreat team that these verses were not what the prison inmates needed to hear. We hold these retreats to make the love of Jesus become real to the inmates and these words detract, even if there is some truth to them at some point in our lives as Christians. The team agreed and our new song sheets omit these verses.
Although we will indeed face difficulties in our lives, because we know that our God will always help us through them, the song we should be singing is the last verse: “Sing glory glory and alleluia…No turning back, no turning back.”