We have a little saying that when you get a lemon, you make lemonade. This means generally that when something sour or displeasing comes our way, we just try to make something good out of it. Now everybody who knows anything about making lemonade knows that you put in the lemon rind after you squeeze out all the juice, just for more flavor.
There are so many distasteful events which come into our lives and we try to make sense out of it all. We get advice, look for “silver linings”, and for the most part, not everything works out perfectly - there is always the rind, always the memory, and the lingeringness of the lemon.
This week begins for us with the celebration of those whom we have
loved and lost. They have passed through our lives and then past
on. We can pray with the juice and enjoy the flavor of the blessings
they have been and are to us. We pray as well with the rind and
pain of not having them around any more. They are in the “hand
of God” we say, but we long to have them close at hand, hand
in hand with us. No, we do not always make lemonade out of lemons,
at least not immediately, nor easily. We might have to pray with
just the rinds in our hands this year.
I write this with some tenderness. My younger brother died this past June, suddenly of a heart attack. I am sure most of you have lost close-ones. To be more than honest, I could not choose this First Reading for his funeral. The authors are struggling obviously to make sense of the deaths around their lives. They must have suffered and when they asked the natural question “Why?” they came up with an understandable answer. God was testing them like gold in the fire. No! Our theology cannot support this kind of spirituality. Our faith might be tested by our intellects as we struggle to make sense of loss and death, but we cannot hold that God, Who is infinite love, would torture for the sake of purification.
There are some comforting lines in this reading, we can pray with them. There are other lines which speak of those who are faithful and elect will be in God’s care. Are these the ones who suffered their illnesses well, but those who lost heart, lost God’s mercy? The souls of the “just” are in the hand of God. My brother was a “just” man, in our eyes, but this reading can make us question whether God knew him in the same way.
This is Wisdom Literature which makes many attempts at explaining the mysteries of love and life, of beginnings and endings. This year I need more comfort than this Reading gives me.
Ah, here it is in the very first line from the Second Reading. Hope! It has been poured out on us We do not have to prove anything of our lives; rather God has proved lovingly faithful in Jesus. This picks me up; this Reading we could use for Terry’s funeral. Here is Terry’s justice, which takes away our wondering about whether he made the final cut or not. We are all reconciled, saved, included and we hold this now while we are living each day closer to our own funerals. We belong! What a holy relief is our belief in Jesus!
The Gospel for this celebration is the exact same Gospel we read
yesterday for the Feast of all Saints, amazing. These seven invitations
to holiness are the orientational program for those who will follow
Jesus through this life into the next. This would be a good Gospel
for Terry. As I said at his funeral, “Terry had many problems
with God; God did not have any problems with Terry.” It is
a good check-list for our examining the lives of those whom we grieve,
even now, even for years. How did he/she live a spirit of sharing,
receiving, spreading life around? Were they aware of their gifts
and not keep them to themselves? My brother gets a straight A for
this first one. How about your departed?
Did my brother mourn? When our mother died, Terry, then thirty, could not go into the funeral parlor for the wake. He just stood outside the room and kept saying, “She loved me like a rock.” If our siblings, friends, parents loved, then they mourned. Terry gets a second “A” for loving enough to grieve the losses of life because of injustice and cruelty. You give a grade to your lost-ones and rejoice that they now are being comforted.
Meek? The meek are not the weak, they are self-possessed enough
to withstand insults and keep standing for what’s good and
true. A plus plus for T. Patrick on this one. The meek inherit the
land, by not having spent their lives fighting for turf. What’s
the mark for your lost to you?
Well enough; the Readings did get a lot better for our celebrating our lives which were so touched by those who did more than just visit this earth. We pray, perhaps with tears, gratefully for the gifts of not having been left alone, but accompanied by such souls, such saints.
“Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Ps. 23
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