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GOSPEL REFLECTION – 12th Sunday of the Year

As I read today’s readings, I felt that I could relate to them quite clearly.  Poor Jeremiah feels that the whole world is against him, but he trusts in the Lord who is at his side, “a mighty hero”.  Jesus warns that other people and ideologies may try to kill us for our faith in him, but to trust in the Father who knows every hair on our heads.  And Paul reflects that the hero is who who died upon the Cross that we might be able to grow in that trust.

So, why could I relate to these readings at the moment?  All of us go through different trials and difficult times in our lives, all very varied, and I can hear this call to trust shouting out to me at this particular time.  As many of you may well know, my mother’s dementia has got a lot worse recently, so bad that my father – who desperately wanted to care for her at home until the end – has now recognised that it is beyond him.  We have had to accept that a nursing home is actually the best thing for her…and for him.  I have found the whole experience quite overwhelming, both in the grief that keeps working its way to the surface and the responsibility of finding the right nursing home that will give her the best care.

Now, this shouldn’t be about me, but an illustration of how we are called to grow in trust through such trials.  When I was praying about it all earlier in the week I found that when I focused on Mum, then the sense of being overwhelmed grew, but when I focused on the Lord, then a sense of hope and peace proved stronger.  And as I reflected on this, I saw that in focusing on Jesus I was looking at the problem from the perspective of eternity and salvation rather than the pressing and immediate.  From God’s perspective, I can see the reality of hope.  What Mum is going through is the suffering that Jesus came to share in on the Cross.  Also, if we let it, it teaches us what faith is all about: to trust in God who supports and sustains us in our struggles in the here and now, and promises us in his Resurrection that there is so much better to come.  This life will pass and an eternity of joy, peace, love, mental clarity, bodily health and so much more await us beyond.

Today’s second reading, from the Letter to the Romans, spoke volumes to me of the source of that hope, as St Paul talks about the power of the Cross of Jesus as “an abundant free gift”.  It brought back to an image that I had a few years ago when listening to a talk on the Cross.  The speaker was telling us that the Cross was the source from which all graces flow out to the world, reaching out across time and space.  In my image I saw the Cross being rammed into the soil of Calvary with the effect that lightning streaked out from it across the darkened sky and the earth reverberated as if with an earthquake that rolled out from it without being destructive.  It may not be an image that speaks to you, but to me it spoke of the power of God flowing out from the Cross, across time and space – I love that phrase – shaking all of us to our foundations.  And the foundations that are shaken are those that we have inherited, those that tell us that the agonies of life are futile and that death has the final word.  But the love of the Cross and the power of the Resurrection shatter that.  Jesus’ pain was not futile and his death did not have the final word, and the same is true for each and everyone of us as well…including my mother.  Whatever is going on for her now, he knows every hair on her head, he is the hero who defeats futility and death, and gives her life purpose even in its darkest hours.  And the same is true for each and every one of us.

When I focus on Mum I grieve; when I focus on Jesus I hope and I grow in trust, as I look at it from his eternal perspective.  Let’s allow him to use each and every trial of our lives to grow that hope, trust and faith, to allow eternal life to have the final word.

With every blessing.

Fr Simon