Monday, September 27, 2010

Confident contingency and joyful hope

Today we begin reading from the Book of Job. The expression of grief and faith that we find in the very first paragraphs of the book ("The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord") isn't just remarkable in itself; it has given words to people in their own times of profound loss and suffering. Years ago, I was deeply moved by the story of a woman who lost her son and her husband on the same day. Over and over, she repeated, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord." The words of the Bible gave her a way to express her twin convictions of sorrow and trust. I think that's one of the biggest blessings that familiarity with the Bible can offer.

Job tells us that we are contingent beings*. The Liturgy offers us a number of occasions for affirming our confident contingency in praise; they kept striking  me today at Mass. "Heaven and earth are full of your glory"; "all glory and honor is Yours..."; "Amen!"

What a loss when people are left on their own, without this inspired support built into their culture. I'm thinking of some young adults whose parents were brought up in Christian households, but who did not transfer that Christian "culture" into their own homes. One mom my age was shocked that her adult children were unable to pray the Lord's Prayer at their grandparent's funeral. But how could they, when it was not a part of their upbringing in a family that did not reject Christianity, but did not practice it, either? When life's hardest moments break on those young people, they have only their own resources to rely on, or the somewhat flimsy supports that come from the surrounding culture.

*Fr Barron offered a great reflection on this at the Islamic Cultural Center in Niles, IL.

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