20 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Lam. 1:1-6 • Lam. 3:19-26 or Ps. 137

Alternate: Hab. 1:1-4; 2:1-4 • Ps. 37:1-10 • 2 Tim. 1:1-14 • Luke 17:5-10

The little faith by which we do our duty expecting no special reward and no opulent praise is the daily round of living, the adult exercise of one’s bounden duty, in the midst of which many small chores summon, appointments are set, friends and family and colleagues depend upon promises given as solemn vows or implied commitments. Being faithful in small things, let us endure to the end. In the progress of our days, we may hope for and may well experience the mid-range emotions of contentment, relative peace, a healthy sense of challenge, a burst of life-giving energy, deserved exhaustion to close the day. We feel and know that the Lord presides over our going out and our coming in. But we will not always know this.

The day of lamentation comes. In recent years there has developed a cottage industry of grief support groups, which, no doubt, do some good for some people. Tell your truth in the midst of others who have felt a similar loss and benefit from the strength of mutual support. Still, questions should be raised: Is grief an aberration in the way addiction is? And why aren’t one’s immediate friends and family the deepest source of love and support? Are we afraid to live with visible lamentation? “She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks” (Lam. 1:2). Grief has gone out to the gravel roads and those who walk them. “The roads to Zion mourn …; her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter” (Lam. 1:4). Whether we are addressing the nation — Egypt, for instance, in all its present turmoil — or the parent delivered the news that a vibrant child is suddenly dead, or the arching loneliness of an elderly man or woman who simply cannot replace all the loves lost in the course of a long life, lamentation is a most human thing. Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are not for hell only, but the normal human expressions of loss and woe.

In the midst of such loss, we humans go on — not well, of course, at least in the early days of anguish, but we look out as if hoping the world, or God, or something, will answer: “I will keep watch to see what he will say to me” (Hab. 2:1). The promise is this: “the just shall live by faith”; but what is faith other than the suffering patience of one who has learned to wait for the appointed time (Hab. 2:3-4)? Faith is aged Simeon and the prophetess Anna who waited for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:22-38).

The Christian is daily drinking of that grace which is life itself, and thus life in all its fullness animates the baptized soul. And yet a life fully lived is a life deeply felt, a life in which the mind and heart, soul and emotion, inner reflection and outward sensing all come alive. So human joy increases; human sorrow grows. This requires work and discernment, learning how to suffer for the gospel in a way that is not indulgent and perversely remorseful. Suffering as we must at times — and let’s admit that some people suffer for whole seasons in their lives — tender care should be taken to rekindle the gift of God and claim again that Christ Jesus has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The herald of this message will have credibility only by suffering too (2 Tim. 1:1-14).

The path from lamentation to hope again is the little faith that God loves and gives (Luke 17:5-10).

Look It Up
Read Lam. 3:26. But ask, “How long?”

Think About It
Groaning that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26


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