Feeling sorry for ourselves is death … but helping others is life-giving


Feeling sorry for ourselves is death … but helping others is life-giving

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – June 23, 2024

Are you suffering badly, or have done so, and wondered where is God?  Why me, God?  At times, our suffering is self-inflicted, but often it’s not: at least we can’t see how it’s my fault.

The Gospel story reminded me when I was about 8 years, playing with matches in the bushes behind the farm shed.  Suddenly, I’d created a fire!  I was so afraid trying to put it out.  Luckily, Dad saw the smoke and came quickly with a heavy wheat bag and put it out.  As soon as I saw my Dad, I knew everything would be OK.  But later I got a whack on my backside!!

But how can we overcome the feelings of despair we sometimes get and avoid losing our faith?  Let’s start by reflecting on the action of blessing ourselves with the sign of the cross?  First, there’s the vertical movement (God and I), and then the horizontal movement (you and I).

Both movements are vital for a healthy life and a healthy relationship with God (spirituality).  If we only focus on God and I, we slowly become sick of God, and become angry or depressed.

But, when we have 50% focus on the lives of others and 50% focus on my life (with God consciously in it, at least sometimes), then we are able to lead a happy life, despite problems.

The story of Job, in the 1st Reading, is quite long.  Today we only heard God beginning his response to Job, after he had begun feeling sorry for himself and “crying to others” about his sufferings.  God helped Job put things in the proper perspective, reminding us all that God’s creation was perfect.  We human beings brought sin into the world: selfishness, greed, etc.

You can see how the illnesses and suffering caused Job to focus on himself: and he became depressed and lost hope.  But God broke through his depression by opening his eyes to the bigger picture.  For example, some people talk about “first world” problems, where people complain about matters of personal comfort or minor sicknesses (eg. the power goes off and no hot water!!??).  If they remember the millions in 3rd world countries who never have hot water, they’re able to laugh!  Here in Kenya, one youth, after his first experience of distributing food in Mathare slums, texted: “this morning I thought I was poor, but now I see I’m rich.”

A youth member walking home from university was asked for food by a very small street boy (maybe 3 or 4),  At first he ignored because he only had 90 on his phone, and his phone was flat.  But the boy persisted and ran after him for some distance, so he borrowed a phone and swapped his SIM card to give the little boy 50.  Although he had little money left, he felt good.

After the Apostles woke up Jesus, all was calm again: actually, the action of waking up Jesus was a sign of awakening their won faith!  With God consciously in our lives, then “bad” things can be managed!  We can work through them maintaining a sense of peace:

In fact, we discover that we are stronger than we thought.  The struggles at every stage of life, prepare us to face even greater challenges in later life, allowing us to be God’s calming presence for others, just like Jesus in the boat.

At age 11, my Dad taught me how to ride the small Honda 90 motorbike.  At first Dad did everything by hanging onto the back of the bike and running behind me: keeping me balanced, pulling me up to stop, etc.  But after a while, as I improved, he let go of the bike.  As I got close to the wall at home, he yelled out “brake”, but I just froze and crashed into the wall. I was expecting Dad to do it for me.  It was the first time he had let go.

Thankfully, I didn’t injure myself, and we laughed about it later.  This reminds us that God expects us to do what we are able to do by ourselves.  And this can open up our eyes, if we are honest with ourselves, to see how we have created some of our problems by ourselves.

St Ignatius of Loyola once said: “work as though everything depends on you, and pray as though everything depends on God.”  These are wise words.

I think having God in our lives is a bit like my motorbike story: knowing that God is in my life, but not consciously thinking about God every minute of the day is normal.  Just as we think it’s not healthy if a boy stays at home for ever, God understands our need to learn about life.

Finally, the Gospel indicates that there were others boats as well.  But the Apostles seemed only interested in their own problems and never mentioned the others in need.

I believe, if we can stop focusing just on ourselves, and reach out to help others, we will then draw life from Christ, who also works through the people around us.

Do you believe that Christ is as close to us today, as Christ was to the disciples in the boat?

By Gerard Conlan, OMI