Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Soul's Upward Yearning

The whole world is groaning. Can you hear it?

It is the groaning of those who are working for justice. Against great odds, they speak out against the evils they see in society. In courtrooms and in legislatures, they fight for those who cannot fight for themselves - the poor, the unborn, the immigrant. Driven by love, they sacrifice themselves to defend the human dignity of all persons.

It is also the groaning of those who struggle to alleviate poverty. Walking through the streets visiting the homeless or working in soup kitchens, they give of their time to lift people out of destitution. Often with meager resources they do what they can to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors.

It is the groaning of people who live under the constant threat of violence. It is the groaning of the people of South America who are at the mercy of ruthless drug cartels. It is the groaning of the people of Syria and other war torn areas of the world. Never knowing when a car bomb might go off or when a sniper might begin shooting from a nearby rooftop, they do their best to protect themselves and their children wondering when it will all end.

It is also the groaning of those who have given up, who have lost hope. With so many challenges around them, they have decided that it is better just to keep to themselves and hide from the rest of the world. Pursuing whatever pleasures and comforts they can afford, they close their heart to their neighbor in need. All the while they feel an emptiness within themselves, the groaning of a spirit that is being suffocated by material goods.

Finally, it is our groaning. As followers of Jesus Christ, we strive to live the gospel message of love. We pray, donate to charities, study our faith and serve the Church according to our abilities. Yet, in the midst of it all, we struggle within ourselves. We fail to love as we should. We fall into temptation. Sometimes we feel as though we are the worst of hypocrites. For all our zeal and good intentions, we wonder if we are making any progress at all in the spiritual life.

This is what Saint Paul has to say in today’s second reading: “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” The groaning that all the world is experiencing is the labor pains of a new creation. God is at work bringing good out of evil, love out of hate, life out of death. The same God who once created us is now at working recreating us and the whole world. We groan and struggle and work because our Heavenly Father is accomplishing something wonderful and beyond words within us.
That is why Saint Paul can go on to say: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”

If we were to just look at the groaning, the suffering and the pain, we could easily become discouraged, like those who choose a life of comfort over one of compassion. We could wonder whether it was all worth it. However, we are not groaning alone. Saint Paul tells us that the world’s groaning is joined by that of the Holy Spirit. In our weakness, the Spirit of God is working within us to bring the new creation into existence. The God for whom nothing is impossible is struggling alongside us. Therefore, we need never fall into despair. We can live with hope based not on the condition of the world nor on any progress we may or may not be making but on the God who makes all things new.

This Holy Spirit of God is the same one who made the prophets courageous in speaking against corruption and evil. This same Spirit hovered over a young girl, Mary, and made her the Mother of God. It was by this Spirit that simple men and women were empowered to spread the good news of Jesus around the world. This Spirit is at work in us in sometimes hidden and unseen ways to fulfill the will of our Heavenly Father.

Despite the hope burning within us, there are times when we grow tired. There are times when our burden overwhelms us and we do not think we can take even one more step. No matter how much we try we do not think we have it within us to struggle anymore. That is when we must listen to the words of Jesus in the gospel: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.
As Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’” When the cares of a broken world weigh down upon us, that is when we turn to Jesus to be refreshed. Resting in His arms, we find new resolve, new courage and new strength. Only when we allow Him to care for us are we able to care for others.

There is a saying: “Look around you, get distressed. Look within you, get depressed. Look to Jesus, get refreshed.” That is why we gather here today. We lay our burdens down and turn to Jesus. We experience Him in one another, in the generosity and courage we witness in fellow believers. We hear Him speak to us in His word which reassures us of His love and presence in our lives. Finally we are nourished by His Body and Blood, the sacrifice which gives life to us and to the world. Empowered then by His Spirit, the Spirit of Pentecost, we can go from this place and bring to birth a new creation - a new Pentecost - from our struggles for holiness, justice and peace.

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