Homily – March 3, 2019

Today’s scriptures contain many short sayings that are rich in meaning and a challenge to all of us. The blind can’t lead the blind. We should face our own failings before we give advice to others about their failings. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees will bear bad fruit.

In our first reading from the book of Sirach we hear these words of wisdom, ‘The test of a person is in tribulation.’

Most evenings the NBC news ends with a ‘feel good’ feature’, a story about a person, usually a young person who bravely copes with a tragedy that has changed his or her life forever. With determination and hard work they move beyond their limitations and are an inspiration to others. The test of a person is in tribulation.

You’ve heard of the book, ‘When bad things happen to good people.’ That’s the way it seems to go, bad things always happen to good people.’ Usually these good people ask why, why me, why now? There is no adequate answer to ‘why’. The question we might ask ourselves is, ‘what am I going to do with this setback, this crisis? Will I let this sour me on life, give up on hope, give up on friends maybe even give up on God or the church. Will we choose to be bitter and resentful? Or will we face this set-back, this deep disappointment this hurt and with the help of friends and God’s grace work our way through whatever our new circumstances are?

Think of the tribulations that can come into our lives; a sudden illness that limits our mobility, our ability to communicate. What about the loss of our independence, our ability to live on our own; our ability to drive our car? How do we get over, though we never do, the death of a spouse, the death of a child or a dear friend? How do cope with loss of a job, or the frustration of looking for work? How do we cope with an addiction? How handle a family break-up? These and many more sudden possibilities are life changing events. They are our tribulations that put us to the test, show us what we are made of.

In his missionary work and travels St. Paul tells of being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, run out of towns, publicly whipped. Any and all of these things would tempt most of us to give up, certainly make us bitter, resentful. The test of a person is in tribulation. Paul faced these tribulations by joining all his sufferings and humiliations to the sufferings of Jesus crucified for the wellbeing of the church thus transforming them into blessings.

The test of a person is in tribulation. Christ’s pray in his tribulation in the Garden of Gethsemane was a difficult prayer, ‘not my will but you will be done.’ May each of us be given the grace to say such a prayer whenever a tribulation comes into our lives.