“To Make a Long Story Short”
There is an old expression, “as patient as Job,” often describing someone of long suffering. Turns out, Job was not very patient at all. In the first reading this weekend, chaos erupts and his life spins out of control. He feels he has done nothing to deserve such misery and he tells God in no empty words. He is vocal, even eloquent, in his protest. His “lament” encourages those of us who feel life has become too burdensome to pray in a similar way.
Some might say this is not a “proper way to speak to God.” If God is the source of everything and they have led good lives, we deserve better. That kind of God is standing by doing nothing while they are going through distress. Rather than enter into a “shouting match” with God, they keep silent. But this kind of respectful silence harbors resentment and can create a chill in our relationship with God. There is plenty of room especially in the psalms, to encourage a more honest expression of our feelings. It is called “Biblical lament.” A complaint to God puts aside false pieties, formalism and “proper etiquette” to express honest feelings to the One who has the power to change things. It honors God’s sovereignty….eventually. The story is sometimes short, but deep human emotions like “grief” work themselves out in time.
Chaos is deeply human fear. The strong fears and frustration around the divides in the landscape of our country and church these past months startle us. There certainly are times in our lives when life seems out of control, as if some evil intent is running the show. We are tempted to ask, “who’s in charge here?” In front of the great losses of the COVID 19 pandemic and the angry rhetoric of our national leadership, we feel powerless and small. Many times in the history of St. Mary’s Parish, there have been stories of great chaos where the leadership here and the heads of families have felt the same thing. The first pandemic of 1918 took place around our still new mission revival church. The architecture says that the last word is God’s and it is strong and genteel. St Francis of Assisi called the Lord of the Court of Brother Sun, courteous… and the final authority of the ages.
Join us these February days in the final weeks of winter Ordinary time. Lent comes upon us after a year of shelter in place. The pope has suggested a simpler version of imposing Ashes on Ash Wednesday. It will be sprinkled on the top of the head. Some of the more follicly challenged heads will show the sign of Lenten penances. For the rest of us, our ashes will be hidden in our relationships and choices. We will have a lavish schedule of Masses and Liturgies of the Word. Do plan to join the friars of St. Mary’s in this sacred season. The bulletin has a number of prayer, almsgiving and fasting opportunities. My favorite will be the recipes for meatless Fridays. We St. Mary’s folks will eat our simple Friday meals with ringing of the six o’clock “Angelus” bell. A Lenten “buen provecho!”
A tender week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM