On grief

It’s a mystery why things happen as they do. We try to trust that God will not abandon us, but sometimes we feel alone. Well-meaning friends may try to cheer us up, yet tears are often the only possible response.

When we pour out our hearts like that, we are in good company. Jesus himself grieved. When his friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Countless saints, too, suffered losses that caused them grief and agony. But when they poured out their hearts to God, he came into their grief. He might not have taken their grief away, but he walked through it with them.

Grief is authentic. David grieved over Absalom, and it was right. Jesus grieved over Lazarus, and it was right. We should feel free to grieve our losses. We don’t have to grieve alone. We can bring our sorrow to the Lord, lay it before him and allow him grieve with us. Allow him to remind us that He promises “to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2). Let him remind us that our Father is “the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Then, when we have poured out our heart, rest in Him and let his love wash over us.

Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good afternoon, Father. Thank You for this beautiful day that You’ve given us in Your mercy and Your delight.

My daughter continues to be sad about her favorite pet’s and other’s recent deaths in her life and she’s still suffering from the flu. Now upon her return to work, she is feeling as thought she’s still ‘running on empty,’ emotionally, and very unappreciated and taken for granted.

And she probably is being taken for granted. Poor sweet girl. You know what’s going on, don’t You, Father?

So, what is the message You’re sending her? Can I help carry it to her for You? I felt at Mass this morning as though I had an insight from You that might be helpful for her. If it is Your will that I should talk with her about this, please help me to recall and recapture the thread and then, to find a way to express it to her that is pleasing to You and that resonates with her.

I tried to think about what You want for her to understand. It seems as though life has been piling an extraordinary number of challenges on her lately. At the same time, I feel as though there’s always a message from You somewhere in the midst of our strife — similar to the pony in a room full of horse manure — and maybe that’s the analogy that will resonate with her. She’s familiar with this story from childhood.

Where’s the blessing for her in all that has gone on in her life over the last several weeks?

I considered this morning that if I were to name my daughter’s greatest passion in life (so far), it would have to be service and caring for those too weak to care for themselves…animals being somewhere near the top of her list. She has always wanted to do things for people and she has always cared about rescuing people and animals in trouble.

I don’t think her motivation starts out being service or rescue in order to be recognized as a server or a rescuer. But like so many of us, when the recognition of our good works doesn’t come, the gratitude for our help isn’t expressed, we can become disappointed, dis-spirited. Not only that, but later, when we need others’ help in return or the understanding of another or just someone’s patience while we make our way through our own misery and sorrow, then, when our favors are not reciprocated, resentment and anger can well up in us.

Often, since we didn’t give or serve or rescue or exercise patience for the sake of recognition in the first place, the anger and resentment are followed quickly by guilt for being the one needing another’s understanding,…and yet…sigh.

It’s a nasty circle of neediness and dependence, Father. You understand. You’ve watched this tendency in us humans to look to other humans for our sense of well-being. It’s been like this ever since You created our first parents and they failed You in the garden. But today, even as You promised them back then, we have only to lift our eyes to You to find You watching us. We only have to call on Your name to be reminded that You know and see everything we do — each act of kindness, each act of forgiveness, each act of patience, each act of service in aid of another — You see it all and You bless us each time with Your love and Your comfort.

So why, right now, are You allowing her to feel so unappreciated, such sadness?

Is it Your way of helping her to lift her eyes to You? To seek only Your appreciation, Your blessing. To recognize that the only faithful, constant, true love we will ever experience is Your love, the love You have for us. To know, with everything that we are, that it is You who sends us out into the world, to serve You, Lord, as You bless others through our actions and our words.

Yours is the blessing, not ours. It is You who gives, You who serves, You who forgives. We are only Your vessels through which You act here on earth. So often, Father, others whom are blessed by You through us do not even realize they’ve been blessed. They may even think they deserve all that they’ve received from us. But still it’s Your blessing, Father, not ours. Yours to give. Yours to judge. All Yours.

So, are we to simply act to allow Your blessings to flow through us without any attachment to the quality of others’ reception, any expectation of a favor returned?

Yes, I think so. If they appreciate us, so be it. Glory to You, Lord.

If they do not, no worry, no shame. We have already received our reward by virtue of allowing You to break into our lives and to use us.

Our reward is Your presence here with us as we follow our passion — in M’s case to serve and to rescue.

In Your compassion, Father, — literally translated as You being with us in our passion — You are with us, around us, walking next to us, helping us to carry our burdens (all the elements of our passion — our fervor, our joy, our rage, our misery, our sorrow, our ecstasy, our suffering), helping us to carry the crosses of our passion.

What I sense You wanting her to understand — because she is so close now to lifting the veil that obscures Your beautiful mystery — is that You’re right there with her. All the time with her.

She has only to look up with her spiritual eyes, to clear the film blurring her spiritual vision and there’ll You’ll be: arms out-stretched, longing to enfold her in Your warmth and Your loving embrace, excited to explain to her all the ways in which You are calling her to Yourself, all the ways in which You envision using her here on earth in service to You, aching to share in her pain — for that’s what passion is really, isn’t it, Father? pain? When others ignore her or disregard her service or her contributions or her insights or when they scold her for her goodness or try to entrap her in their lies and misrepresentations, just as they did with Jesus, Your Son, when he walked here on earth with us — aching to help her know how very good and beautiful she is, how beautiful her heart is in Your sight — both in our physical reality and in Your spiritual sight.

Your way is so simple, Father, yet so difficult: Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

And when people here on earth don’t respond or worse, respond in hurtful ways, we must turn to You again and again and yet again. Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

All is Yours, heavenly Lord. All goodness, all righteousness, all beauty, all truth. Thank You for allowing us to share in this spiritual reality with You, Father, and to come finally to rest in You, to come finally to find our peace in Your grace.

I pray all this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank You, Father.