Importance of Family

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/02/06 at 12:00 AM

One of the great blessings of my life was to grow up in close proximity to all of my grandparents. In fact, from the time I was 6 or 7 until she died when I was 20, my maternal grandmother lived with my family.

My grandmother had debilitating arthritis that left her completely bedridden for the last 18 years of her life, and because my grandfather was unable to provide the care she needed in his final years, she came to stay with us.
As my grandmother required 24-hour care, my siblings and I were all expected to help out, and we did our best to normalize life for our disabled grandmother. Consequently, a large part of my childhood was spent sitting with her, talking with her, and caring for her.
But although my grandmother required a great deal of time and energy, I don’t think any of us minded at all because we all knew that what Grandma had to give back to us was so much more valuable than the energy and time we expended in caring for her.
Outside of the normal things that grandmothers provide their grandchildren in terms of love, care, and wisdom, my grandmother taught my siblings and me the value and dignity that can be found in human suffering.
Perhaps that sounds a bit odd to some of you that suffering has value and can confer dignity on someone. Isn’t suffering an evil that we should eliminate or at least lessen if we can?
The short answer to that question is: Yes! Suffering is an evil, and yes, we should try to eliminate or lessen the sufferings of others if it lies within our power.
But sometimes we can’t do anything about suffering. Sometimes suffering simply has to be endured. And if that’s the case, then we must seek to profit from our suffering, drawing from it the great virtues that are to be had when we embrace it.
For while suffering can be the most difficult of companions in life, suffering is not without its gifts for those willing to bear with it. Suffering is also one of life’s best teachers to those whose eyes and ears are open to its lessons.
Our readings today confront us with God’s power in the face of suffering. The prophet Isaiah speaks in beautiful terms today about the saving power of God, a power that opens the eyes of the blind, clears the ears of the deaf, and allows the mute tongue to sing.
And in the 7th chapter of Mark we witness our Lord healing the deaf man with the speech impediment in the district of the Decapolis.
In this Gospel story as Jesus touches the deaf man’s ears and tongue, he says the Greek word Ephphatha, which means: “be opened.” This is a gesture that is often repeated at baptisms to symbolize the spiritual healing we all need to facilitate our reception of the Faith and to prepare us to share our Faith with others.
In a larger context, I think the Ephphatha prayer to “be opened” is a call for us to be open to how our Lord desires to heal us, trusting that our Lord will always do what is best for us.
Indeed, one of the things we learn from today’s readings is that God desires to aid us in our weaknesses.
While those with physical disabilities tend to stand out amongst those in need of healing, the truth of the matter is that all of us, no matter how healthy we may think we are, are in need of some type of healing.
For all of us are born with the supreme form of ailment: original sin. And every time we sin, or someone sins against us, we sustain emotional and, more seriously, spiritual injuries.
Just as physical and emotional ailments can prevent us from living life fully, and in the worse cases can lead to death, spiritual ailments can also keep us from living life as God intends us to live it, and in the worse cases cause spiritual death, which is the loss of eternal life.
As we consider the woundedness and its accompanying suffering that is part of the human condition, we must remember that our blessed Lord understands it all, for He, too, suffered greatly in His passion and death. The crucifix is our constant reminder of His suffering.
The difference, of course, between our Lord’s suffering and our own is that Jesus suffered not because of any sin on His own part, but only because of the sins of others. We cannot say the same for our own suffering.
As Christians called to follow our Lord and imitate Him in every way, we are sometimes called by our Lord to share in His Passion. Sometimes our Lord invites us to walk with Him up the steep path of Calvary, helping to shoulder the cross, and He does so for many reasons.
Sometimes our Lord allows us to share in His Passion so that we can grow in virtue – like humility or courage; sometimes He invites us to share in His passion to make reparation for sin; sometimes He desires our suffering to be offered as a prayer to benefit other souls; and sometimes Jesus invites us into His passion just to become closer to Him.
What we have to realize, though, is that everything that we suffer in life, big or small, is an opportunity to unite ourselves to our Lord and to become more like Him.
All suffering is an opportunity for us to identify with our crucified savior and thereby participate in His great work of redemption.
If our eyes and ears are open to the possibilities of faith, we will learn to see all suffering in this light: viz., as an opportunity to grow in holiness and prepare ourselves for Heaven!
But even though suffering can have positive benefits for us when we endure it with faith, it’s also good for us to pray for our suffering to be alleviated. That’s a good and holy prayer! But as I mentioned earlier, we must be open to how our Lord desires to heal us.
When our Lord heals us of our suffering, He does so to strengthen our faith. And if He doesn’t take away our suffering, it’s either because He’s testing our faith or because the suffering itself is meant to heal something else within us or to benefit another soul.
But whatever the answer to our prayer, we are called to be faithful and persevere.
Moreover, we must learn gratitude in the face of suffering. Because whether or not our Lordalleviates our suffering as we wish, it’s all a gift to help us grow in holiness. And so we must
always try to accept our sufferings with love, not bitterness, and with faith, not fear.

If we can do this, trusting that our Lord will give us the necessary grace to bear whateverburdens He allows to come our way, it is then that we will truly grow in holiness and begin to
bear His likeness.

Brothers and sisters, none of us enjoys suffering. But suffering is a part of our humancondition. It’s something that we must all learn to bear.
And so if you find yourself suffering in some way, do not despair and do not be bitter. Whileour gracious Lord may not have explicitly willed for this suffering to come into your life, He
is allowing it for the benefit of your soul – and possibly the benefit of others souls.

So as true followers of Christ, let us have hope in the face of our sufferings: hope that if webear our sufferings well and unite them to our Lord’s suffering on the cross, we will become
a little more like Him and become a little better prepared for Heaven.

Through our Lady’s gracious intercession, may we all be patient, persevering, and always faithful to God in our times of trial.
09 September 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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