Suffering is not the last word when it comes to life in Christ
April 13/Fifth Saturday of Lent
They shall come and sing aloud for joy on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. ~ Jer. 31:12
When we are sunk deep in our own pain—and it might be postpartum depression, financial troubles, a family member’s addiction, a toxic work environment—we may feel that suffering is the dominant mode of life. Our world becomes tinted with the dark tones of sadness, loneliness and hardship. Certainly the ancient Israelites, held captive by the faraway waters of Babylon, as Psalm 137 has it, must have felt permanently alienated from everything that had been good in their lives. But as today’s radiant verses from Jeremiah remind us, suffering is notthe last word when it comes to life in God. On the contrary, comfort, hope and renewal are the ultimate dispositions of God’s love for his people, and they are on full display in today’s verse. Jeremiah describes the jubilant shouts and shining faces of the Israelites restored to their homeland, iterates the abundant blessings that God has bestowed upon them and holds out the promise of eternal comfort. These images—the grain and the wine, the young cattle, the well-nourished garden—point us towards the fullness of joy, a joy that inevitably comes to those who wait. Noting the presence in human lives of “a marvelous mixture of both well-being and woe,” the 14th-century anchoress Julian of Norwich wrote, “We are made dark and so blind that we can scarcely accept any comfort. But in our intention we wait for God, and trust faithfully to have mercy and grace.” As we prepare to enter with Christ into the protracted pain and suffering of his passion and death, let us determine to reach beyond them towards the endless delight that awaits us the other side of the tomb: the delight of life with God.
O God of the Paschal mystery, touch me with your grace and lift me out of my suffering into the joy of your salvation. Amen.