Just back from the last RCIA meeting where the topic was the nature and role of suffering. The main question and concern focused on how to understand the value and meaning of suffering. Lots of stories told and heard. While we all know it, it is hard to put one’s finger on outside the context of stories and relationships. These two features may after all be the point. Suffering, in some paradoxical way deepens and enriches our humanity and binds us into community.

The wealth of biblical readings this week are all about the long history and trail of human suffering, most of it committed by us ourselves in our unjust structures of convenience — political, social, economic, religious, educational, international, racial, gender, and the list goes on and on.

It is because of our free will, that on the one hand enables love, that God allows suffering to go, because it is our very own free will that binds us to choices of sin and evil. The free will of Jesus, who loses his life for the reign of his Father, finds his life given to him. Imagine if he chosen to save himself, and in doing so would have lost everything including still his life

There is this great red thread of suffering in the long Biblical tale told from Thursday through Sunday. The Buddha put it succinctly in th first Noble Truth, “There is suffering.”

At the same time, “a word to rouse them” (the weary, the suffering) must shout out at last by the end of the Vigil and surely on Easter Sunday morning. The songs, chants, music, the homily must be all about life, joy, the great and high communion, the outpouring of the Spirit, the promise of resurrection from the dead. A good Gerard Manley Hopkins poem would probably be better than many homilies that go theological on people, when what they should be served is a “word to rouse them.”

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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