May 4, 2010

a season of suffering

This may be a St. Paul's anomaly, but our pastoral care needs seem to flow in cycles. Currently, we find ourselves in a season of suffering; lots of surgeries, cancer treatments, long-term illnesses, and even death. It'll last for a month or two or more, and then we will find ourselves in a season of refreshment when the needs won't be as critical nor as numerous.

This ebb and flow of need often leaves me wondering the big questions of theodicy. Why do good people suffer? Why does it all seem to happen at once? Why do some find the healing they long for while others do not?

This struggle is heightened, for me, in the story of Jesus healing the man at the Sheep Gate. What is it about him that the heart of Jesus is stirred to help him and none of the other "many" invalids who lie about in the porticoes? If it is a sign, which all of Jesus miracles are, then what is the meaning? What is it pointing to? And why couldn't it point there just the same if everyone was healed?

As a priest there are days that I think I should have the answers to these questions, but mostly I am content to leave it up to God. When a season of suffering comes upon us, I pray for healing, I pray for strength, I pray for peace, and I know that all of those things will come to be, either in this life or the next. In the meantime I rest in the promise of the resurrection and work toward fulfilling my part of the Lord's Prayer, "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven."

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