Proper5B-18, June 10, 2018
1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Yesterday was High School Graduation here on Lopez. It was as wonderful as ever. After a week of seeing TV footage of volcanic destruction in Hawaii and Guatemala, international meetings with leaders going poorly, the suicides of two famous people, and more scandals afoot in the political arena, it was nice to be at a genuine celebration for our young people. With any luck, they might create a better place for all of us. It would be ideal.
I like trying to see the potential in the world. These kids are not bright-eyed idealists and dreamers like we were at their age. All the members of this class have already been through adult challenges. Single parent homes due to divorce, death, and addictions; mental illness, physical limitations, bullying, peer pressure to push the envelope on things, plus figuring out their future plans.
So, for at least a few hours, they can celebrate the positives they have achieved, and the clean slate opening to them – a future that just might be brighter than where they are right now. Sounds like the voice of gloom or cynicism. Not so. It is very realistic. The parents and friends celebrating the graduation hope for a brighter future, a new chance, even while they too figure out all the challenges they live with.
A prayer that rang through my brain all week. “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, and shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake.”
Graduation was in the ‘shield the joyous’ part of that prayer. Keep them in a joyous place for as long as possible. The real world comes back quickly enough.
The rest of the prayer was with me all week, too. “The weary, the dying, the suffering, the afflicted.” Not just on television in far away places, but on Lopez. We try to balance the joy joys and the challenges we face every day.
These graduates are a tight-knit class. Their teachers, parents, family, neighbors, mentors encouraged them to grow into themselves. We all have our circles of families, co-workers, and friends who still do help us through life, to keep us grounded.
We are a blend of strengths and weaknesses, talents and handicaps. We chose work and play according to what we can do. We adjust to our lives by working with and adapting to what suits our set of God-given traits. God gives us both blessings and challenges. For a reason. We are only whole when we reach out to others to fill the gaps in our own selves.
It doesn’t always work. We may get kicked out because we don’t follow what others expect from us. We may chose to follow our own path. We may turn inward and “go it alone.” That may not leave us with much support. “The house divided”, by choice or not.
We may even be turning away from God. Without God, who or what do we turn to? Thinking too highly in our own independent abilities? Our power or wealth?
The sad part of this is when we seek to fill the gaps with addictive behaviors that turn us inward, basically the deadly sins we read about that are in defiance of the 10 Commandments: envy, lust, pride, gluttony, and pride. Remember also anger and laziness. God sees these things and wants us to return to living outside ourselves, in community, in support of each other. God wants us to see ways that we can give to each other, not only take advantage of each other. Love your neighbor.
I am not talking about those of us who are challenged with physical or mental difficulties. It is how we work with our chronic illness or disabilities that show where we have God’s grace. How we learn to accept and adapt our lives – controlling or treating what we can, honestly understanding where we can still be part of God’s earthly community. How we help those who need us.
That prayer again? We are all the sick, the weary, the suffering, and the afflicted. We just don’t always let people see us in that way. Is it because we are afraid to show weakness, or are we in a state of grace with the help of care-givers, knowing that God is with us is enough to get us through another week. Physically, mentally and spiritually.
It takes work to stay connected to our family and friends. It is the hardest part of spiritual growth. We come to understand that God loves each one of us, and loves everyone else as much as he loves us. It is not a competition with anyone else to get God’s love. There is more than enough love for all of us.
We tend to share someone’s joy in receiving a diploma, a new job, a child. As long as we get ours too. But really, there are plenty of training programs, jobs, ways of creating family. We tend to be sad in sickness and loss. And sigh in relief that we are still whole. But really, we are sick and at a loss, too. God is more compassionate than we are. God wants us to know that we are all one body.
In most church run programs, the hungry or the homeless or the poor are fed first, then there is an offering of programs on how to help themselves. Like Saint Francis, the churches preach the Gospel, in some cases, using words.
We ask for God to tend to us – the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, and above all shield the joyous, we know that it is all in God’s love. How God loves us, we love each other. Respecting their gifts and strengths, helping them in their weaknesses.
What more can we do?