The excerpt presented above is taken from the Book of Revelation which is a collection of visions had by John the seer. This particular passage in the slate of this Sunday’s readings present a Utopian environment where the human family is restored to that perfect relationship with God. A place where there is no longer any pain, suffering or confusion. This vision reminds me of all the moments I have sat with people in this world wracked with unimaginable anguish. In those moments when parishioners are encountering their worst possible life experience they look to their parish priest to somehow put their story into some kind of perspective that brings them comfort and insight. In that regard I have been a miserable failure. Often I find myself silenced by the enormity of the other’s grief and searching desperately for something…. something to say that will remove some modicum of their sorrow. How, I ask you, when someone is wailing in a hospital Waiting Room does one attempt to explain the complexity of the theology of suffering? Where are those magic sound bites that loop a comforting ribbon around the box of another’s torment? Is it possible to find spiritual perspective in a culture where people shoot children in a school or place bombs on a busy street corner?
I am, as usual, without answers to any of these questions. However, my lived experience is that when someone is falling apart they rarely have the expectation that you are going to put them together again. What would appear to be comforting is that you are there. That you return the phone call or walk into the Trauma Center. Often an onrushing of gratitude is extended when you simply listen, or hold someone’s hand or offer to voice a prayer. Amazingly just being there would seem to offer great consolation. I suppose you could say that about Jesus: he did not always prevent, or heal, or appease. Nevertheless he was present in affliction, in rejection, in hunger and in sorrow. So I must accept that I cannot remove the cross the other person is struggling with. For now, I shall continue to consecrate the Eucharist, positively interpret the Sacred Scriptures and look into the eyes of the person in front of me. I am here. I am right here………that’s all I have.