September 2, 2019
by George Butterfield
Creighton University's School of Law Library
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 125

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Praying Ordinary Time

 

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Saint Paul wrote to a community of young Christians about the future of those who had died in Christ. He told them that he did not want them to grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve. We cannot help but grieve when a loved one, a friend, or a colleague dies. But we do it as people who have hope. We believe that there is a future for those who have died.

Our family lived in Sacramento, California, in the 1980's and there we met a distant cousin that I had never even heard of until my mother came to visit us and looked her up. She and her husband seemed like nice people. However, they both professed to be atheists. She was in great physical condition and ran a lot. One day as she and her husband went out for a walk she said she needed to sit down and, upon doing so, died on the spot. My wife and I went to her "memorial service." What a contrast to the funerals and memorials I had experienced. Poems were read. Reflections on her life were given. One thing was noticeably absent: joy. A dark cloud had descended upon those gathered. As we left and got in our car, we both agreed that we had never gone to anything quite like it where there appeared to be no hope, no future, no sunshine on the horizon. She was dead, and that was it.

I remember reading years later about a different experience. Edith Stein, who later was canonized under her religious name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, told about the time when the light of Christ first broke through her darkness. She was a secular Jew and had gone to Göttingen University to become the pupil and teaching assistant of Edmund Husserl. She became good friends with Husserl's assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife. During the World War I battle of Flanders, Reinach was killed. Edith went to visit his widow. The Reinachs were Christians. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross." Adolf Reinach's wife grieved his death but not as one without hope. Edith had never experienced anything like this.

Whether we die or live until the Lord's return, our hope is that we will always be with the Lord. We have a future. It is a future of light, happiness, and joy - the mystery of the Cross come to fruition. We can console one another with these words.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.

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