Paul so intimately knew our Lord Jesus that he was overcome with inexplicable grief when faced with the Jewish people’s denial of his true divinity. He so wanted them to experience the fullness of the Father’s love. Remember, Paul was not only a former Roman soldier, he was also a Jew and these were his people. Paul became riddled with disbelief and heartache when his Jewish people denied our Lord, the pain undoubtedly brought him to his knees. No matter how hard Paul tried to reveal to them the truth they couldn’t see it. Who among us in today’s world understands deep grief when a loved one can’t see Jesus? Yes, we understand in our own way Paul’s torment.
Paul was a man who felt with deep passion and conviction. How deep must his pain have been when his family couldn’t see the truth. Additionally, being a former Roman soldier, Paul was a man of great honor and commitment. How could he reconcile this breach in his heart; how could he love Christ and honor his people? Obviously he couldn’t do it without pain. His heart broke so much that he would wish himself accursed if this sacrifice would save his people from their unbelief. Fortunately for us, and our loved ones, we now know about the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God.
Paul was handpicked by God himself to present the truth of Christ to all, even if that meant he must suffer the anguish of witnessing his people turn their backs on Jesus. Paul must soldier on, there are other children of Israel who are begging for adoption and Paul must tend to those sheep, the future Christians, so that they can hear God’s voice and experience the Father’s love.
In our Gospel today Jesus shares with us that same love of family when he spoke to the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath – a big no-no according to Jewish law. However, Jesus knew his dinner companions that evening, and he knew they would break this law to save their sons from imminent death. Yes, Jesus knew how important family was to the Jewish community, he fully understood the deep bond of family loyalty and he used this sense of family love in an attempt to reveal to them the importance of healing the broken in their midst.
Yet, since the time of Jesus many question God’s existence because Jesus died such a horrific death on the cross. What kind of loving father could stand by and allow his one and only begotten son, whom he was well pleased with, die such an agonizing death? Let alone what “loving” god could allow this. Even the Pharisees would rescue their sons from the cistern on the Sabbath.
Jesus is hanging on the cross, calling out for his father at the pinnacle of his painful ordeal and nothing – crickets, or so it would appear… On the surface I could see their point – what type of god is this Christian God? If that is who you worship then please excuse me as I peace out and search elsewhere for happiness.
However, God did rescue his son from the deep, dark, cold cistern. He raised him up and sat him at his right side where he rules for all eternity. To fully understand what is going on here we must remain ever mindful of the fact that Jesus carried all of our sins upon himself, all of our deepest pains; including the pain experienced by those who experience the absence of God in their lives – much like Paul’s kinsmen who didn’t receive Christ into their hearts and our loved ones who don’t know Jesus. This is the deepest pain a soul can ever experience – separation from our loving Father who alone has the power to grant us true happiness. This pain Jesus experienced as he uttered “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). We can never understand the pain that Father and Son experienced at that moment, yet, they did it for us so that we can live wholly.
So the next time you feel no one will rescue you, or when no one will rescue your loved ones, remember that Jesus has already carried this pain over 2,000 years ago on Calvary. Also, remember there are “Pauls” in the world who are led by Christ, they are filled with compassion and love for God’s children. Modern day Pauls experience a deep ache in their hearts because they desire our salvation and unification with the Father’s love so intently. They will lead us when we need a guide. Many are priests, religious, and lay people alike. They come in many forms, as God knows that we need different types of messengers in order to hear the message. All we need to do is keep an open ear and listen for them. If it is our loved ones who cannot see the truth then we must pray and trust in the power of prayer, mercy, grace and forgiveness. I have been blessed to run across a few “Pauls” in my life time when I needed a road map. Most importantly, I have been blessed to witness their arrival in the lives of my loved ones when I have prayed with fervor for their unification with the Father’s love.
No matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the sense of abandonment one may feel; God’s messengers are among us today and they are ready to lead us home where all suffering ceases to exist, where we will experience our Father’s love for all eternity.
Jesus – I love you!