Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Sometimes it seems that the Sunday Mass readings were meant just for us. That’s how I feel about Sunday's second reading. If you are like me, you really don’t like to suffer. I have spent decades trying in one way or another to prevent or at least minimize hardship. I don’t want my children to be distressed, even though I can’t always prevent it. I certainly don’t want my wife, Jeannie, and me to face trials, yet they come anyway. I don’t like it when my friends have to endure illnesses either.
Still, we all face struggles in life. The current pandemic is one example. How painful it is to lose a loved one and not be able to have a fitting funeral! Or how stressful it is if you or a family member has lost their job—this happened to one of my adult children just two weeks ago.
That’s where Sunday’s second reading comes in. St. Peter wrote, “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God” (1 Peter 2:20). In other words, if you are doing God’s will the best you can and suffering still comes your way, don’t give in to fear or panic. Believe that somehow, the situation you are going through has God’s grace covering it. Believe that God is close to you, even when hardships come.
If you are struggling right now, know that you are in great company! Remember, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus didn’t want to suffer. In fact, he asked God to take it away. And yet he kept his eyes fixed on something greater: “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
How did Jesus do this? He fixed his eyes on his Father, whom he knew loved him and would care for him. He fixed his eyes on the salvation he would win for us. He fixed his eyes on the promise of heaven. All this gave him joy. So now, even if we are struggling or suffering, we too can “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
The other day, I was in the back yard with my eighty-eight-year-old mother, who lives with us. My dad passed away a few years ago, and Mom misses him every day. It was a cloudy day, so I said to her, “We can’t see the sun today. Do you think the sun is there behind the clouds?” Mom said, “Of course, Jeffrey.” (She calls me Jeffrey.) And I told her, “The same is true for God and for Dad. We can’t see God, but he is close to us. You can’t touch Dad now, but he is in God’s presence. So whenever you come to God in prayer and at Mass, Dad is still as close to you as ever.” Never one for long responses, my mom said, “Hmm.”
Brothers and sisters, you are not alone! Because you are in Christ, God is very close to you. When you pray, when you watch Mass in your home, you are in the company of the angels and saints. This is not only our future hope. It’s also our reality today, even if we can’t see it. God is with us!