The relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is a communion of love which speaks to our hearts in the aftermath of these last 15 months. In our moments of isolation, tension and stress, may we turn to the Holy Trinity for the grace we need to foster unity in our hearts and with one another.
John’s Gospel offers a glimpse at the division that occurs among the crowd – all who are trying to figure out who Jesus is – as doubt, isolation and discord rise to the surface. Division is part of our human experience; in light of today’s reading we have the opportunity to consider how we work to unite with one another in a spirit of peace.
Last week I focused on the personal nature of suffering. When we are in pain, when we hurt, we can easily focus on ourselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing; suffering can help us confront reality and strive for healing and wholeness. In our suffering we are aware of blessings that we may have taken for granted – our sight can become sharper as we realize the gifts that have been lavished upon us.
There is another dimension of suffering, however. Suffering commonly affects relationships; when one person suffers, it is often the case that others suffer as well. Consider the following:
Physical suffering can keep us from human touch/contact
Intellectual distress can cause us to lash out in doubt and misunderstanding
Emotional anguish can prevent us from connecting with others because of fear and anger
Spiritual suffering can obscure our values and beliefs with God and others
There are countless examples, but the point is clear – the pain and anguish a person suffers can directly affect relationships with God and one another. Suffering can become an obstacle that blocks us from the very persons who can bring healing and relief. Often the greatest wound from suffering is isolation: in our weakness we withdraw from the very people who can help us the most.
The 1st Reading, Responsorial Psalm, and Gospel today reveal both the obstacles of suffering and the bridges that God makes possible through healing grace. In the face of suffering the Lord comes, not just to bring healing to a person, but healing to the relationships among persons. God longs not only to renew our lives but the lives around us as well. Where suffering brings isolation the Lord brings unity – drawing us together in reconciliation and love.
This communal aspect of suffering thus begs two questions for our consideration:
Is suffering affecting relationships in my life right now?
How can I invite the Lord to bring healing/reconciliation?
When the Jesus healed the leper in the Gospel today, he did more than give the man back his health – he gave back his relationships as well. The man (formerly cut off from human society) is now restored to his family, his friendships, and his participation in the community. His life has been restored.
As we look to our own encounters with suffering we keep an eye to the ways in which our relationships are harmed/healed. May we call upon the grace of Christ to touch our lives, and bless the lives of those around us.