Today, Catholic Christians celebrate the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
On this day, we read in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, “Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17).
One important theme we can glean from this passage is that we are called, as the Body of Christ on earth, to encourage one another on our life journeys.
Before examining this in greater detail, however, let’s look at the following story called “Holding Each Other.”
The story begins with a woman whose happiness was shattered by the loss of her brother. He was a good man, and she had loved him greatly. Torn by sorrow, she kept asking God, “Why?” Instead of hearing an answer, she only heard silence. So, she set out in search of an answer.
The woman had not gone very far when she came upon an old man sitting on a park bench. He was crying. When she asked him what was wrong, he said, “I have suffered a great loss. You see, I am a painter, and I have lost my eyesight.”
The painter, like the woman, was trying to answer the question of “Why did this happen to me?” The woman invited him to join her in search of an answer. After taking him by the arm, the pair made their way down the road.
Soon, they came upon a young man walking along aimlessly. He had just lost his wife, the source of his joy, to another man. The young man joined the woman and the blind painter to search for the answer to their “Why me?” question.
As the three walked along, they soon came upon a young woman who was sitting on her front doorstep weeping. She had lost her child. She, too, joined the three. Though they traveled many places, they could obtain no answer.
Suddenly, however, they encountered Jesus Christ himself. Each of the four pilgrims told him their story, and each one wanted to know why bad things happened to them.
Instead of answering their questions, Jesus gave them no answer. Instead, to their amazement, Jesus began to cry and said, “I am bearing the burden of a woman who has lost her brother, a young woman whose baby died, a painter who has lost his eyesight, and a young man who has lost a love in which he delighted.” As he spoke, the four moved closer, and they embraced each other. Then, they grasped Jesus’ hands.
Jesus spoke again saying, “My dominion is the dominion of the heart. I cannot prevent pain. I can only heal it.”
“How can you heal pain?” asked the woman?
Jesus replied, “By sharing it.”
Then, Jesus disappeared from their midst. And the four were left standing, holding each other.
I love this story because it ties in so will with today’s selection from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians. Though we could discuss many things from the Scripture and this story today, here are just three points that I ask you to remember.
First, everyone has problems. Now this is a very simple statement, and one that pretty much everyone would say, “Of course. It goes without saying.” However, even though each of us knows that everyone has problems, we often forget it. We look around us at people who seem to glide through life without struggle. They seem to have everything – a fine job, wonderful family, good looks, excellent education, great friends, great health, and nice personality. But no matter how they may appear to others, they, too, have problems. It is part of the human condition. And because we all have problems, we could all use help now and then.
Second, as we saw in this story, sharing problems with others is one of the first and most important steps in the healing process. In the field of mental health, for example, we have a saying: “A problem shared is a problem cut in half; a problem kept secret, is a problem doubled.” This means that if we let secrets fester inside us, they take a life of their own. The molehills become mountains in our minds, and before we know it, we are negatively affected in our spiritual and physical health as well as in our mental health.
And third, you and I are the Body of Christ on earth. That means that we are to function as Christ’s hands and eyes and ears. If someone is in need, it is up to us to step in to help. We do this by serving God by serving others via the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This call to action is a Christian commandment.
As we continue our life journey this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on our own lives. What kind of problems do we carry around in out hearts, minds, and spirits? How has sharing our problems been instrumental in the healing process?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2016.
Story source: Anonymous, “Holding Each Other,” in William J. Bausch (Ed.), A World of Stories
for Preachers and Teachers, Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1998, #125, pp. 274-275.