Imagine you are one of the disciples sitting at the table during the Last Supper. As Jesus comes and takes his place at the table, things look like they do at every other Passover meal they have shared. There is nothing that would suggest that this would be the last meal they would share together as a group. Life can be, and often is, like that. Today doesn’t look a whole lot different than yesterday and tomorrow will probably not look a whole lot different than today. Until it doesn’t.
Things can change suddenly and without warning. A car accident can claim the life tomorrow of someone sitting at your table tonight. Devastating news can come to a loved one that will change their life and the life of the family forever. I can remember when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer. On Monday evening her and I were sitting on the couch at home watching the Canadiens game and Wednesday evening we were sitting in her room at the IWK after receiving her diagnosis. To say that we didn’t see it coming was an understatement. But in fairness, Jesus tells us in the Passion reading we hear this week that darkness will have its hour in all our lives.
While most times we cannot control the circumstances creating the rough time we are going through, we can control how we react to it. I can remember lying in bed the night we received our daughter’s diagnosis asking God why He would do this. Where is the sense or the fairness in a little girl one week away from her 12th birthday being diagnosed with cancer? Then I came to the realization that God did not do this. In my faith journey I have come to believe that God has no vested interest in seeing anyone suffer. Having said that, I have had many people say to me over the years (as I am sure you have), “God won’t send you anything you can’t handle.” This has always perplexed me as I am trying to think of what bad thing I would do to one of my children just to see if they could handle it. I haven’t been able to think of anything yet, but I will continue to try. Our daughter survived her fight with cancer. Sadly, some children do not. Does that mean that we were better equipped to “handle” what had come our way than some other families? Or that we were better people? Or prayed better? I don’t think so, but I will be the first to say that I certainly do not have all the answers. All I can do is base my faith on what my experience of God has been. Why some people and families survive crises and others do not, is a mystery that I don’t think any of us can solve.
Now we can debate forever the eternal question of why bad things happen to good people but if we do, I think we are missing the point. Jesus was not spared hard times in his life so it would be foolish to think
that we would be. One thing Jesus did know, as evidenced by his heart wrenching prayer in the garden, was that in all of what was happening, he was not alone; and neither are we. Jesus promises us that we are never alone. It doesn’t get more comforting than that. To know that someone who has been through the tough times is now walking along side us to help us in our need. Fr. Henri Nouwen once said, “It is foolish to think that someone can lead you out of the desert who has never been there themselves.”
I can say that I believe with all my being the saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Perhaps that is the blessing of coming through hard times; that we are now a little more capable of being God’s instrument of peace and healing to someone else who needs it. That is certainly what Jesus has become for us. As we journey through this Holy Week, perhaps our deepest ask of God is that He let us have the privilege of being the answer to someone’s prayer.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity