People are losing their homes to foreclosure. Forest fires are ruining beautiful trees. Families aren't going to church anymore. You can't get a real person on the phone when you call a business. Hurricanes are devastating whole communities. Planes are crashing, killing passengers and crew members. Television is nothing but violence and sex. Glaciers are disappearing. Children are starving. Marriages are ending. Taxes are going up. Gas prices keep getting higher. People are lonely. Kids are dying from the flu.
Someone's got to be blamed.
Life isn't easy. We are all taught that at an early age; maybe it was when we were cut from a sports team, or didn't make the cast for the high school musical. Maybe we learned that when a loved one died. Perhaps it was taught through personal illness and suffering. Somewhere, somehow we learn that things don't always work out, that life can be painful. But that's so very hard to accept. Many never do.
In our collective psyche life has a particular order. We are to grow up in a loving family, go to college, get a good job, get married, settle down, raise a family, watch them grow and marry and have children of their own, and die peacefully in our sleep at a ripe old age. That's just the way it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, for many that particular order of life is interrupted, broken, and ended all too soon. Perhaps the family wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Maybe college never happened. Marriages end all too often. Children sometimes grow into dysfunctional, broken adults, and sometimes die before mom and dad. Sometimes it just doesn't work out the way we'd hoped.
Someone has to pay.
It seems to come naturally, the need to blame someone or something for our suffering. We blame our spouses, the schools, the government, the Church...and God. Lawyers have made a fine living helping us to find someone to pay. Politicians point their fingers at one another. Friends become enemies over misunderstandings and accidents. Families are torn apart. In the Broadway musical, "Wicked", the Wizard of Oz explains to one of the characters, "the best way to bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy". God knows in this day and age we've got plenty of 'em. And so we get angry, we write letters to the editor, we push for legislation, we vote the bums out, we shake our fist at the heavens...my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?...sound familiar?
When Jesus uttered those words on the cross He wasn't speaking extemporaneously - He was quoting the words of a Psalm everyone present at the crucifixion would have been very familiar with. Psalm 22 begins with those words and yet ends in great hope, words that would have struck a chord in the hearts and minds of those present. The Psalm ends in triumph and hope:
For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not
turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear
The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer
praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!"
All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD, the
ruler over the nations.
All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God;
All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage.
And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.
The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.
Someone did pay. He paid with His life. And by placing our hope in the person of Jesus Christ we find comfort, hope, and victory over all those things that bring us pain and despair.
In today's Gospel reading Jesus is asleep in the boat during a violent storm. The apostles are incredulous that Jesus would be sleeping when their lives were in danger - they awakened him and asked, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" How many times have we asked that question, or wondered if our Lord was asleep, unaware of our plight? With a word Jesus calmed the storm. He will do the same for us; He only asks that we have faith.
There will be storms, no doubt. But do not fear. He is not asleep. He is not unaware. Like Psalm 22, suffering will be answered with victory and peace, if we only have faith.