|Memorial of St. Irenaeus
2 Kings 25:1-12
Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Matthew 8:1-4 or
2 Timothy 2:22-26
At the close of the Book of Kings, Jerusalem is in ruins and the people of God are led off to captivity in Babylon. There is horrifying destruction and loss.
Psalm 137 sketches a deeply touching scene of the victims, taunted, sorrowfully vowing to hold Jerusalem in their hearts.
I vividly recall the first time I carefully read this psalm. It was in a junior high school English class when we studied Psalm 137 as an example of ancient poetry. The words pierced me. The translation we read went something like:
"By the waters of Babylon, There we hung up our lyres and wept When we remembered you, O Zion."
I wasn't at all consciously spiritual in junior high school. If anything, I was the opposite. But this psalm stirred me. I still don't quite know why, but I suspect it was one way for God to touch my teen-aged heart. Perhaps there is something in this psalm that resonates profoundly with our common human experiences of loss, horror at the world's cruelty, our pain, our grief.
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, my first wife died unexpectedly. As I groped through my grief, I turned at times to Psalm 137. Reading it aloud was and still is a comfort. I have no more sophisticated an understanding of it now than I did when I was a rough-edged schoolboy with a vague sense of the beauty and healing power wrapped up in the words.
Maybe that's the best way for me to approach God: to be content with a vague awareness of my awe. The awareness at times is intimidating. Other times it fills me with joy. Most often, it just haunts me. God, His love for me, for us, is alive at the core of our deepest pains, our most shattering losses.
We all are like the leper in today's Gospel. We walk through
times that ravage and ruin us. Suddenly, we're face-to-face with
Jesus, begging to be healed. And without fail, He heals.
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