The anguish of the Book of Lamentations seems to have fallen upon us in these days. We are anguished and overwhelmed by the evil. We feel at a loss. How is this to be understood? How is it to be addressed? Some might even be at the point of despair, wondering if there is any reason to hope that things can or will get better.
The book Lamentations is well named. It is a series of five poems that were written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.. They are difficult to read. The pain in these poems is overwhelming. One almost feels assaulted by the intensity and the depth of the suffering they express. They are the product of the real world of human suffering. But for all of this, today’s passage from the third poem, Chapter 3, rises out of this long lament as a brief, bright statement of hope in God’s ultimate mercy. It is a hard, even a precarious hope, but it is hope nevertheless.
As I write, I am overwhelmed with the unrelenting bad news we see on our television screens these days. There seems to be a constant and unending eruption of irrational and gratuitous violence in the news both here at home and abroad. The anguish of the Book of Lamentations seems to have fallen upon us in these days. We are anguished and overwhelmed by the evil. We feel at a loss. How is this to be understood? How is it to be addressed? Some might even be at the point of despair, wondering if there is any reason to hope that things can or will get better.
A Christian knows that it is foolish to despair, and to focus only on the darkness. We know that evil has always been in the world. We know that our own sins of neglect, ignorance, and sometimes of arrogance have often contributed to the atmosphere of evil in the world. But we have seen our need for repentance. We know the love and the mercy of God is freely and generously given to those who call on him. We are, therefore, a people of hope. Our hope is not crushed by the darkness. Indeed, we are called to live lives of faith, hope, and love in the midst of the darkness. When we are surrounded by darkness we are to be the single candle that in its weakness, pushes back the darkness. We know that we are not abandoned, that God is always present. We are called to be his instruments of peace at the center of the violent whirlwind. Just as in a hurricane, the wider the peaceful center becomes the weaker the storm.
We often feel burdened by the storms around us. It is true, and we can admit this. But because of our faith, we are not overwhelmed. Like today’s passage from Lamentations in the middle of Israel’s great suffering, we too see reason for hope, for we believe in “The steadfast love of the Lord.” We know that it does not cease. We have known his mercies in our own lives. We trust in his mercy yesterday and today and tomorrow. Each day we rise and give thanks, because his mercies are truly new each morning. We have reason to believe in God’s great faithfulness, because we have seen it in Jesus, the Christ. This is why we are a people of hope. It is now that Christ invites us to be signs of faith, hope and love in the midst of today’s whirlwinds. Pope Francis has said that the Church needs to be a “field hospital” to heal the wounds of the injured and suffering in the middle of this broken and battered world. Healing has to begin before we can talk about everything else. That is a good description of what the Church and all Christians are called to be.
Lord, strengthen us for the mission you have called us to as your disciples in the world today. We are weak, but we believe in your mercies. We are weak, but our hope is in you. We are weak, but we know the depths of your love and we desire to bring that love to our families, our friends, our neighborhoods, our cities and our world today. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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