These are wise words from the book of Wisdom today. So often we witness or experience bad things in the world, or suffer from afflictions and we may ask, “How can God let this happen?” Similarly, I remember a story about a tornado a couple years back and someone mentioned on Facebook how thankful they were to God that they and others were OK and did not get hit by the tornado. Someone less faithful left a comment asking, “Where was God for those that did get hit and had their home destroyed and lost everything? Where was God then?” It’s a fair question.
Regardless of the intentions behind the question, I think we have all asked that from time to time. How can God let these things happen? How can some people survive unscathed while others lose everything they have or worse? How come some people suffer from diseases or are enslaved to addictions that cause them so much despair they think there is no way out? How come there is so much suffering and death from anger and hate? How can God just let the world sink further into the bottomless pit of immorality and the “anything goes” culture we live in?
Well, God just doesn’t let these bad things for His own amusement. In fact, it crushes Him. Just to recite that line from Wisdom again – God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. He did not make racism, or hate, or immorality. He did not make selfishness, nor does He twist lies into facades of truth. He does not want all the suffering that is in the world today. The reading goes on to say, For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. God created us to be like Him – but He also gave us that darn free will. Then when Adam and Eve fell, that was a game changer, and as the first reading goes on to say, But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.
The stakes just got higher. There’s a new set of rules. Enter sin, suffering, death and pain. Now, over and over God showed His might and His glory to Israel, and for a while perhaps, the people listened. But over time, we always sink back into our old ways, and forget about following God and instead we fall into sin. And unfortunately, we all have to deal with our share of tragedies not knowing why they happen or what good can come of them. And sometimes, it always seems like we’re the one being hit by the tornado.
But as I wrote in last Sunday’s reflection, God will twist, and massage, and mold and sculpt the most evil thing that can happen and bring something good and amazing from it. God doesn’t want bad things to happen to us, but unfortunately, that is the name of the game in the world today based upon the new rules that came into play so many years ago.
But what God does do is use those pains, and sufferings, and afflictions, and tragedies to serve a greater purpose. And in some way that only God can understand at the time – he uses those bad things that happen and those evil things that people do for good, and turns them into a blessing, either for ourselves, or someone else. Sometimes we have to sacrifice, sometimes we are the sacrifice. Sometimes our hardships help someone else. Other times, another’s affliction may help us. Sometimes, we have to pay Caesar what is Caesar’s so that others can live better lives, and sometimes, we must accept some evils so that God can bring greater blessings. As St. Paul writes today:
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.
When Christ entered the world and suffered and died for us, that was an even bigger game changer than when sin entered the world. God modified the rules, and made the game better. We have a way to win the game. Christ made things right again, and even though sin is still in the world, through Christ we now have someone to guide us through it to safety. The biggest tragedy in the history of the world was the fall of Adam and Eve, but this is also the biggest example of God taking something bad, and twisting it to make it into something good and fantastic. God sent Christ into the world, as one of us, to show us the way back to God. Christ endured horrible pain and a brutal death, but from it we all get eternal life if we follow Him.
So in todays Gospel, we have two stories going on, and this is a great example of how ones affliction affects someone else. While Jesus is en route to see Jairus’ daughter, who was suffering from a terrible illness, another woman in the crowd suffered from her own chronic illness for years. She sought Jesus and simply strived to touch His cloak, hoping His power would heal her. Christ’s power did heal here, but if it were not for Jairus’ daughter being ill, the woman may have never been able to see Jesus.
And when the people around Jairus’ daughter lost hope, thinking she had died, Jesus used her condition to show others God’s power – Do not be afraid; Just have faith. Again, perhaps the wisest words we can live by. Jairus’ daughter’s illness and suffering had many “goods” that came of it. Surely we can all look back on our life or the lives of those around us and see similar experiences where something we felt was so bad or horrible at the time resulted in a blessing.
Often God will use our tragedies or ailments to bring us to Him. He will use our addictions as a blessing to bring us closer to Him and foster a deeper, stronger relationship with Him, making us better people and in some way, making us stronger and bettering our life. And along the way, God will use those same afflictions and tragedies and hardships to help others through us and better someone else’s life.
We can hate the sin, and hate the tragedy, and hate the illness, but we must love and be thankful for those same trials that bring us closer to God and potentially help others in the process. We need to show love towards everyone. Everyone. As Pope Francis has said,
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.
God will twist everything, everything, into a blessing. This world is a blessing, but we have to heal each others wounds. If we want to change the world, we have to heal each other, starting with those around us, and build each other up rather than tearing each other down. We have to patch up those wound’s but it starts with us.
We look at our trials, our hardships and differences from the right perspective, they are all blessings and gifts, even through the blood, sweat, and tears. That is how Jesus looked at us from the cross, through His blood, sweat, and tears – He saw us as a blessing. He saw His pain as a gift – a gift that would save the world.
God will make good from any evil, and He will turn any tragedy into a blessing beyond our imagination. We just need to trust Him. We need not understand at the time, and it may take years or a lifetime to see the good – we just need to not be afraid, and just have faith.