Some years ago when our Liturgy was being changed from Latin to English, a pastor was rehearsing the changes with his people. "Now," he said, "when I say 'The Lord be with you,'
you all reply, 'And also with you.' Okay, let's try it: 'The Lord be with you.' 'And also with you,' they answered. 'Very good,' said the pastor.
So the pastor went to the sacristy to vest and then came out to start the Mass. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," he began. But then he frowned, tapped the microphone, and in a low voice muttered to himself, "Something's wrong with this microphone!" To which the people responded right on cue: "And also with you."
Yes, something indeed is wrong with us. Our bodies shrink, our bones break, our sight blurs, our hair falls out (or shows up in unexpected places), we lose our teeth (I just lost two last month!), we have unseemly scars from operations and injuries : all this is evidence of the innumerable direct hits our bodies have taken through the years.
In addition, our spirits are often shattered time and time again. We have our own stories to tell: losses, tragedies, failures, betrayals and sometimes years of silent desperation. There are times we are hit so hard and so often that we feel we have no more to give. We want to say goodbye and disappear.
Jesus knows this. He understands our feelings because he experienced them all. So in today's Gospel Jesus speaks pointedly to each of us about particular events that seem like the end for us: violence, famines, earthquakes, wars, betrayals by our own family and friends. Despite this, Jesus is upbeat and says to us, "I will help you in your troubles. You are always in my care." Do we trust Jesus?
We might ask, "What does Jesus mean? My scars, my hurts : they're real!" Yes, they're real. But so is Jesus! Jesus is not promising to take away our troubles. He is not promising to stop the rain from falling. He's teaching us to dance in the rain. "Nothing of you will be lost," he promises. "You must persevere! Stay with me to the very end. You won't be sorry!" "Stay with me," Jesus says. Do we trust Jesus? Well, do we?
Let's pray with bowed heads in the words of Cardinal Newman:
"May God support us all the day long
till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
and our busyness is hushed, the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in God's mercy, may we have safe lodging,
a holy rest and peace at last." Amen!