Suffering the pain and anguish of loss

I celebrated three funerals last week, two for women who died tragically young. One was 27 years-old and the other woman was only 41. At that age death seems so untimely, so unfair and unjust. How do we make sense of the turmoil left behind, a family’s grief and pain?

There are so many questions, so few answers, certainly none which satisfies the aching in our hearts and the darkness which overshadows our days.

In the vulnerability and the fragility of life the death of a young person makes us more acutely aware of our own mortality and helplessness.

In this context, I mention the third funeral I celebrated last week, for my 92 year-old grandmother. This experience brought a pain and an anguish very different form the other two occasions.

My grandmother had lived a long, fruitful and good life. She was surrounded by her family in her last days and her passing leaves a tremendous void for our family. She was the foundation and anchor for all of us and her death has marked the end of an era and a generation.

Yet, despite the sadness and sorrow, I can make sense of my grandmother’s death, there are no regrets or unfulfilled wishes. She had come to the end of her journey and while letting go can be difficult, her legacy will profoundly shape her family for years to come.

It’s the death of the young, the suddenness and shock of the unexpected death, the impact felt by friends and relations which can leave us shattered and numb. Where do we find hope, where do we find answers when our world has been shattered and nothing now makes sense because our lives have been changed and transformed forever?

In last Sunday’s Gospel we pictured four men in separate boats whose lives were soon to change forever by the suddenness of Jesus’ arrival.

The people in question had been living a humdrum existence, days filled with hard work and the usual regularities of family life. Then Jesus enters the scene and immediately the men response to his call. There is no sense of hesitation, reluctance or half heartedness. Instead, they leave everything and follow him.

Where did this trust come from to place their lives in the hands of a stranger? What did they know of Jesus before they encountered him on this fateful day?

How should we read the story in our time of need, how do we interpret the scene as relating to our lives?

The call of the disciples has a similar challenge to us today, can we give our hearts and our lives over to God? Can we lift our hearts above the business and the distractions of our daily routine for long enough to notice and hear Jesus’ approach? God is calling us to a new way of life; if we can allow Him to become the centre of our lives then we will encounter true peace and the consolation of living the truth.

Jesus came announcing the nearness of the Kingdom of God, as we listen to his message how do we respond to his call? How do we respond to the needs of those now living in darkness of despair and pain, whose lives are shattered by the experiences they have to endure and the burdens which they must carry?

How do we live out our vocation of being God’s children, disciples of Jesus Christ? Like the apostles do we respond immediately and with generosity?

When God enters our lives in any real or serious way then we have to put on the mind of Christ.

We have to become shaped by God’s mercy and compassion. It’s not easy overcoming our fears, but in a world whih is so much need of God’s healing and peace we have a great responsibility to make his presence felt.

The Kingdom of God will remain a distant dream and fairytale unless we have the willingness to play our part in being witnesses to the reality of a God who seeks out the lost and embraces the broken hearted.