Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Richard J. Piatt, O.S.A.
Merrimack College
North Andover, Massachusetts

Readings
Is 49: 14-15
Ps 62: 2-3, 6-7, 8-9
1 Cor 4: 1-5
Mt 6: 24-34

“My LORD has forgotten me?”

It is so easy for a person to feel abandoned by God. You likely know, as do I, people who feel God has wronged them, has “forsaken” them due to financial strains, health issues, or the death of a loved one. You likely know people who experience God as the very reason for their suffering or oppression. It is easy to feel forsaken. It is harder to see God in the midst of suffering. I have a great friend who I have known for over 32 years. He is a modest man who, like me, is a bit of an introvert, so I’ll not use his name, even though it is highly unlikely that those of you who are reading this and those in his social circle will ever cross paths.

My friend and I met in high school. Like me, he is from modest means and has parents who struggled to provide the necessities of life, plus a little extra (like a Catholic education). As we have aged from goofy teenagers into men, he has become a devoted husband (having married another dear friend of mine), a doting father, a hard worker who tries his best to provide for his family (as does his wife), and a man with a strong love for God.

Yet, his life has been far from easy. Both he and his wife have significant health issues, and have spent much of their lives without health insurance (their children were, thankfully, covered in their home state). They have been plagued by employment struggles, are saddled (sounds like a harsh word, but from my observations, it is an accurate word) with caretaker responsibilities for their parents, and spent much of their married life living paycheck to paycheck and moving to wherever the work forced them to move. Yet, I’ve not heard him or his wife complain. I’ve had conversations with them where they share their struggles and their requests for other family members to “step up to the plate” regarding extended family issues, but never once have I heard them actually complain.

Instead, I have heard both of them talk of how they trust that God will help them on their way. They know this means hard work on their part, but they have never felt that the Lord has forsaken them. I know many others who would have felt like the Lord had forsaken them for much less than this man and his family have suffered.

This couple, who has struggled and suffered more than anyone I know, has strengthened my own faith with their own. They make no pretense that they have not struggled with their faith, but it is also very clear to me just how much they place their trust in the LORD.

This family does not have much in terms of material good – well, not much in terms of material anything (even a car has been a struggle). But I would argue that they are the wealthiest people I know. They truly love each other, and more, truly enjoy each other’s company. It’s a little weird, we joke about how much their kids really are friends with each other AND still enjoy hanging out with them and their grown up friends. Their home is always a place where the friend and the stranger is welcome. Their children have learned the value of service to others and the dignity of all human life. While they have not been on a family vacation, they have (one parent with one child at a time) served on church sponsored mission trips where they extended themselves to the poorest of the poor.

In short, they embody the words of Christ in today’s Gospel. They place their trust in God before all else, believing that while it might not happen the way they’d like, that God is with them and will continue to bless them. Their experience has taught them that just as a mother can’t forget her own child, so God will never abandon them.

Each one of us has a different set of circumstances that brings us face to face with God each day. When you weigh your struggles against your graces, your sorrows against your joy, your heartbreak against your love, your fears against your faith, remember that it is easy to step away from God and blame him. But also remember that it is God who is always present. Always walking with you, always leading you closer to Himself, always encouraging you to take a moment to be still and recognize that as a mother holds her child close to her heart, so God holds you. Remember that as a parent guides their child, so God guides you.

Your God will never abandon you.