Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
2) 2 Thes 2:16-3:5
Gospel: Lk 20:27-38
Our second reading, from St. Paul, speaks of encouragement. To discern its relevance for us, we might begin by thinking about what puts us in need of encouraging.
Well, obviously there’s fear. And weariness.
More subtle and maybe harder to deal with is simply what we might call discouragement. The loss of hope that things will work out. The feeling that nothing we do will make a difference. The draining away of any impetus to act. A shadow in the heart.
What helps when we’re discouraged? Different things in different situations.
Sometimes it helps to have someone remind us, “I’m in this with you.” Or, “You’re accomplishing something. Don’t give up.” Or, “You have a gift for this. People can see it.” Or, “Everyone finds this hard at first.” Or, “Of course, you’re not doing a perfect job, but imperfect is better than nothing.”
But there are some discouragements to which no cheering words seem to correspond.
When we feel stuck as a square peg in a round hole in our job. When our financial problems seem inescapable. When we fail at something we worked for for years. When the evil we confront in family or church or world is big and getting bigger, and we can’t change it.
When we suffer chronic pain, disability, the constricting limitations of getting old. When we are disappointed with someone we love — a friend, a child, a spouse. When we witness cruelty. When we are abused.
Then what can anyone say? “God isn’t finished with this situation”? “God works to the good in everything”?
Yes. But the question is whether we find such pointers toward God helpful.
I suppose that depends on where we’re at with God. What if our discouragement stems, at least partly, from feeling that God is not present and active?
Something Paul says speaks to us about this. He expresses his wish that “our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father” would encourage us. And he concludes his wish by saying, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
In the deepest place within us, our “hearts,” God can direct us toward himself. In the place where discouragement takes hold, God can turn us toward his love for us.
This is not something that we do, or can do. It is something God does, to which we respond.
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.