Friday, March 27, 2015

Passion Sunday Year B (Gospel: Mark 14:1-15:7) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Today we begin the celebration of Holy Week, a very special time when we reflect on the events that lead us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, events which changed the course of history forever.  Because of these events we can now go to heaven when we die.  It’s that simple.

We begin with a short account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, hailed by the people as a great prophet.  They threw down palm branches in front of him and shouted ‘Hosanna!  Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord.’  Yet within a few days everything changed.  He was betrayed for money, illegally tried, then tortured and killed.  Today we read the full account of his passion.  It is the main focus of our mass.

Even though it is a sad event that we remember, it is also a day of celebration, because what we remember is the wonderful event that made it possible for us to experience the eternal life after this one.  That is so important, because if we couldn’t hope for a better life after this one, it would be very hard to keep going a lot of the time.

Everyone suffers, as you know, there are no exceptions.  Probably one of the most difficult things for any of us to experience when we are suffering, is the sense that we have been abandoned by everyone.  Sometimes we even feel that God has left us and we are on our own.  This can be so difficult because we believe that at least God won’t let us down even if everyone else does.  But where do we turn when God disappears too?  There is no where left to go.  This is the worst kind of suffering.  Of course the truth is that God never abandons us, but we may feel that He has.

Just before Jesus’ death on the cross, he cries out: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’  What does this mean?  It seems to point out that even Jesus felt completely abandoned by the Father.  He felt totally alone.

Why would God the Father hide himself from Jesus at the time when Jesus most needed to know He was there?  Perhaps it was so that Jesus could experience this worst kind of suffering, the suffering of believing that you have been abandoned even by God.  By experiencing this, Jesus is brought to the furthest extreme of suffering, as it were.  After this there is nothing that he has not experienced and this means that he can understand us in every kind of suffering we go through, even the feeling of being abandoned by God, because he has been there.  We can no longer say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ because now he does.

I think it is also good to remember that even though we may feel we have been abandoned by God at times, that in fact we have not.  But sometimes God allows us to go through this for reasons only known to God.  It seems to be part of what forms us, even though it is very difficult and we shrink away from it.

Finally I want to mention Our Lady.  She also was at the foot of the cross.  Years before she had been told by the angel Gabriel that Jesus would be great and would reign forever as king.  He would be called Son of the Most High God.  What had happened to all these promises now, as she watched Jesus come to the end of his life before her eyes?  Although Mary must have suffered terribly at all she had to witness, she didn’t give up hope.  She believed that what God had said would come true and she hoped and believed even without understanding.  God invites us to do the same; to hope even when we don’t understand.  There is so much that we don’t understand, but we try to believe that God knows what God is doing and so we don’t give up.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B (Gospel: John 12:20-33) Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies it remains just a single grain

‘Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.’

A survey was carried out in America a few years ago to see who were the happiest people and why.  The survey found that the happiest people were old African-American women.  The second happiest people were old Hispanic women.  The third happiest group of people were old women in general.  Why?  Because they had suffered so much throughout their lives. It had taught them so much and they had learned to be at peace and now they were very content and very little would put them out.  I used to notice the same thing with many of the old people when I worked in the hospital. The older people were usually much more patient and tolerant that younger people, even though they would often be suffering more, but they had generally learned to be tolerant and patient.  They weren’t easily phased.

We always wonder when we see people suffering, why we have to suffer so much, especially at the end of someone’s life.  It is the one thing that all of us find hard to face and we have no explanation for.  However, the whole journey of Lent tells us a lot about the place of suffering.

Suffering seems to be an unavoidable part of this life where everything is so imperfect, but it does have its purpose.  God doesn’t want us to suffer, but God brings great good out of the suffering by allowing us to be transformed by it.  However, it is a slow process and we don’t usually see the fruits  of it until afterwards, which makes it all the more difficult.  If at the time of suffering we knew that it would lead to something much greater, it would make it a lot easier, but the problem is that we usually cannot see any point to it at the time and that is part of the suffering.
Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

The whole life of Jesus is also telling us something about what we are called to.  His life was one of total self-giving.  He lived for others.  Yet in spite of all that he did, he was continually persecuted.  In the end he was betrayed for money, falsely tried, tortured and executed and yet he was totally innocent.  All of this was sickeningly unjust, and yet look at what God brought about from the death and resurrection of Jesus: we are now offered eternal happiness with God when we die.  From the point of view of worldly thinking it makes absolutely no sense, but seen with the eyes of faith we see something quite different and that is why our faith is so important.  It helps us to make sense of what does not make any sense from a human point of view.

You know how angry we all get when we are faced with injustice.  What happened with the economic crash a few years ago is a good example.  The greed of a few causing great suffering for so many and as a result everyone is enraged and rightly so.  It is totally unjust and yet I have no doubt that we will see great good come out of it as well.

It says in the second reading, ‘Although he was Son, Christ learnt to obey through suffering.’  Jesus didn’t want to suffer any more than we do, but he trusted that the Father knew what he was doing, and so he accepted his will.  He became perfect through suffering.  We don’t want to suffer either, but we must also learn to trust that God knows what he is doing.

The society that we live in tells us continually that we should be able to have everything exactly as we want it and whenever we want it, and that we should never have to give in to anyone.  We are told that everything is for our pleasure; but that’s not what Jesus taught us.  He said, ‘Try to enter by the narrow door’ (Lk 13.24).  He also said, ‘Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world, keeps it for the eternal life’.  Jesus is telling us not to invest everything in this life, because it is passing and what we have here is not really important.  The only thing that is important is what will happen to us in the next life.  We are being faced with a long-term investment.  If we try to find total happiness here, we will be disappointed, because it is not to be found.  It is sad when you see people driven by greed, even if they get away with it.  They are trying to find happiness in this life, through money, but no matter how much they are able to acquire, they still won’t be happy.  It cannot bring happiness, because God has created us in such a way that we will never be completely fulfilled by anything earthly, not even by someone we love dearly. Hopefully we will have many times of great joy, but we will never be completely fulfilled here.

The Lord is telling us not to be afraid of what we have to go through in this life because it is transforming us and helping us to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.  God is well aware of the potential we have and God wants us to reach it.  That is where we must trust him with the process of what He allows happen to us.
Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

4th Sunday of Lent Year B (Gospel: John 3:14-21) Freedom through the death of Jesus

Will we ever be good enough to get into heaven? I think that is a question that many of us ask and also are afraid of the answer. We know underneath that no matter how hard we try, we keep sinning, we keep struggling with what we know is not right, even if they are small things: gossip, addiction, impurity of one kind or another, resentment and so on. We always seem to fall short of the mark. It is something that I hear a lot in confession. People don’t say it directly, but you can often hear their fear. They know that they don’t seem to be improving.

When Jesus spoke to the Apostles about how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, they asked: ‘Then who can be saved?’ And he gave the disturbing and wonderful answer: ‘For people it is impossible; but not for God. Everything is possible for God.’

St. Paul, to whom Jesus appeared several times , talks about his own struggles with sin: 

I do not understand my own behaviour; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate.  ...the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want—that is what I do. (Cf. Rom 7:14-24)

It is comforting to know that someone like St. Paul also struggled the way everyone else does. You can almost hear his frustration. He finishes up asking, 'Who will save me from this wretched state? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ.' That is the key to it.
One of the most central teachings of our faith revolves around this point and so many people miss it. The point is that no matter how hard we try we will always fall short of the mark. We can never be good enough, or holy enough for God. But what’s even more important is that it doesn’t matter, because it is God himself who makes up the difference for us. The perfection that we cannot reach, God makes up  for us and this happens through the death and resurrection of Christ.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.

We hear this message all the time, but I think we don’t always appreciate what that means. It doesn’t just mean that God has won eternal life for us, but also that God makes up for us the goodness that we can not achieve ourselves. So even if we only manage to make it to 70% of the goodness we are supposed to have, God is the one who makes up the other 30%, or 40% or 95%. This is what the death and resurrection of Jesus means. God achieves for us what we cannot do ourselves. That is why we talk about the ‘freedom of the children of God.’ It gives us a freedom so that we don’t have to be afraid of whether we will be good enough to get to heaven or not. God has taken care of that for us. It means that we can be at peace.

Does that mean that we can do anything we want? Certainly not. St. Paul says in the letter to the
Philipians, ‘Continue to work out your salvation in fear and trembling.’ In other words, don’t take it for granted. So we continue to try and live by the Commandments of God and do what is right, so that we will blossom as human beings and become the best version of ourselves that we can be, but as long as we stay open to God we need never be afraid.

God has created us to be with him in heaven. And God will make that happen unless we consciously and deliberately reject him. We do our best and although it will never be good enough for God it doesn’t matter, we can relax. We try to live as we are called to, but we can also be at peace as long as we remain open to God. That’s what it says in the second reading. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.’

This is also what the whole mass is about; the forgiveness of sins. Remember the words the priest prays over the chalice at the consecration: ‘This is the chalice of my blood, which will be shed for you and for many, so that sins may be forgiven.’ There is no need for us to be afraid. Everything has already been taken care of.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

3rd Sunday of Lent (Gospel: John 4:5-42) The waters of life

This Sunday my homily is based on the Gospel of 3rd Sunday of Lent from Year A, as it is used for the first 'Scrutiny' which is for those about to be received into the Church.

All around us we see signs for Tarot card reading, fortune telling, psychics, all kinds of alternative healing and other practices that come under the general heading of ‘occult’.  We are told to stay away from these things that so many people find fascinating.  Why is this?  What is so wrong with it?  Are we just over-reacting because we do not understand it?

If God tells us to stay away from something, there is a good reason for it.  God does not give us rules just for the sake of rules.  There is a reason for everything.  In the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy it says:
You must not have in your midst anyone who... practices divination, or anyone who consults the stars, who is a sorcerer, or one who practices magic or who consults the spirits, no diviner or one who asks questions of the dead.  For the Lord abhors those who do these things. (Deut 18:10-11)

So what is the problem with these thing?  Anything that is ‘occult’ is generally an attempt to gain knowledge or power of the future. 

One of the greatest things that God has given us is the gift of free will.  All through this life we have the freedom to choose to do what we want, even to rejecting God, which is quite amazing.  God does not reveal the future to us because if He did it would influence our free will.  If I thought there was going to be an earthquake in the city centre tomorrow, the chances are I would avoid the city centre.  If I think I know what is going to happen, I am most likely to make decisions based on that information, but the problem is that then I am not totally free to choose, because my free will has been influenced.  That is the main problem with things such as fortune telling, tarot card reading, etc.  We think we are gaining knowledge of the future, but this influences our freedom.

It is also true that we have no way of knowing whether the information we are given is true or not and perhaps more importantly, where it is coming from.  If God deliberately does not reveal the future to us, then the information is not coming from God.  So where is it coming from and how can we trust that it is reliable?  We are dabbling in the world of the spirit, without knowing what we are dealing with and make no mistake about it Satan is very cunning and knows how to deceives us.  Jesus himself called him ‘the father of lies.’  And don’t be fooled by the fact that a fortune teller starts of with a Christian prayer, as some of them do.  If the Lord tells us that these things are detestable to him, then we would be wise to stay away from them. 

I know of a woman who was given the initials of someone she was told she would marry.  And she met a man with those initials, and she married him, and it was a disaster.  If you have dabbled in any of these things confess them and let them not have any kind of influence over you, spiritual or otherwise.

Now listen to what Jesus says to the woman at the well:
If you only knew what God was offering you and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

What is God offering us?  What is this living water?  First of all it is the life of faith, the path to God, the truth about God as given to us by Jesus who is Son of God.  Jesus is either telling us the truth or he is not.  If he is—and we say we believe he is—then we need to listen.  For two thousand years the teachings of Christ have been guiding people on the path to God.  The fact that it has lasted that long is itself a sign that this must be from God, especially when you look at the history of the Church, which is nothing to boast about.  Yet in spite of that, the message of God is still passed on, through sinful people like me it is true, but passed on none the less.  It is there for anyone who wants it.  Many things are continually offered to us, but not all of them are good and not all of them will help us.  What we believe is that what God offers us—the waters of life—is what will lead us to total happiness, beginning now and fulfilled in the world to come.  This is what the Lord is teaching us.  Do we believe that? 

Sometimes I think it comes back to something as basic as asking ourselves, ‘Do I believe the Scriptures are from God?’  ‘Do I believe that Jesus teaches us through his Church?’  If we believe that, then we need to listen to it.  If we don’t believe that, we shouldn’t be here in the first place.  God offers us his word to guide us, his Body and Blood to feed us, his forgiveness to heal us, but if we want to follow the path that He is showing us, then we must listen to what he teaches us and act on it.
If you only knew what God was offering you and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

Friday, February 27, 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent Year B (Gospel: Mark 9:2-10) God speaks in the cloud

I have often heard people say that the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac is horrific.  Maybe it shouldn’t be read at all.  It is horrific. It is meant to be.  The point is that God asks the unthinkable of Abraham, but more importantly Abraham trusts in God and goes along the path that makes absolutely no sense to him at the time.  Not only was it horrific that he should be asked to sacrifice his child, but it was also through this only child that God had promised him many offspring.  So nothing at all made sense. So Abraham suddenly finds himself in a situation of complete darkness, where nothing was right, nothing made sense.  But Abraham trusts God and then everything changes at the last minute.  God ‘put Abraham to the test’ not in the sense of seeing if he was good enough, but because God knew that Abraham had great faith and he wanted to stretch that faith to its full capacity.  An athlete won’t reach his or her full potential unless they are pushed to the limit.  Sometimes God does the same with us.  He knows what we are capable of much better than we do ourselves and sometimes He stretches, or pushes us to the limit because God wants us to reach our full potential as human beings.

Did you ever notice that sometimes when you pray for a situation to get better it gets worse first?  There is a temptation to panic and not pray any more.  But if we believe that God is listening to us and helping us, then we persevere in prayer and we try to trust that the Lord will bring the best out of the situation, even though it often doesn’t make senses to us.  That requires faith, and it’s not easy at the best of times.

Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac his only son, but in the end he didn’t have to go through with it.  Because he was willing to do anything that God asked and showed his remarkable trust in God, the Lord said that He would bless him greatly:
I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore.

3000 years later God sends his Son Jesus and allows him to be sacrificed for the human race.  It says in the second reading that because Jesus went through with this, the Father would refuse him nothing.  That is why we can have such confidence when we pray to Jesus.  It says in the second reading that Jesus now intercedes for us before the Father in heaven.  If Jesus the Son of God is interceding for us before the Father, then what could we possibly be afraid of as long as we remain open to God?  Not only that but we also have Our Lady interceding for us too.  Is Jesus going to refuse his mother anything?  Is the Father going to refuse Jesus anything?  And these are the ones who are interceding for us.  Hopefully that will help us not to be afraid.

In the Gospel the three disciples Peter, James and John are granted this extraordinary vision of Jesus in his divine glory.  Why were they given this privilege when none of the others were?  This happened just before the Passion, when Jesus would be tortured and killed before their eyes.  Peter, James and John were also the three who would be with him in the Garden of Gethsemane watching him fall apart.  They were going to need great strength not to despair themselves.  But what is especially worth noting is that after the vision was over they suddenly found themselves in a cloud where they could see nothing, only then did they hear the voice of the Father speaking to them:  ‘This is my Son the Beloved.  Listen to him.’

God spoke to them when they were in a cloud.  Have you ever been on a mountain when a cloud suddenly descended on you?  It’s quite frightening because you cannot see anything.  You have just stop and wait.  Sometimes it is only when we are in a ‘cloud’ or darkness/confusion that God will speak to us most powerfully.  When we cannot see the way forward, and we cannot get any clarity on what to do, then God will show us what the next step is, but often He will only show us the next step, not the whole path ahead.  This brings us back to the need to trust that God knows what God is doing when He leaves us in the dark. And most people are in the dark most of the time, especially with regard to their faith.  That just seems to be how it works.  We are only shown one step at a time, if anything, but God asks us to trust him that He knows what He is doing.  If He doesn’t show us the path it is because we don’t need to see the path ahead only the next step.
This is my Son the Beloved.  Listen to him.’

Friday, February 20, 2015

First Sunday of Lent

Although this is the first Sunday of Lent the homily today is on the Eucharist as I'm giving a retreat this weekend to those who will be received into the Church as adult Catholics this coming Easter.

I used to work in a hospital and one of the jobs that I did for six days a week, was to bring Holy Communion to the sick and anyone else who wanted to receive.  I often noticed that bringing Holy Communion around to people provoked the most reaction.  People would or would not receive, but they were usually pretty definite about it.  Those who didn’t receive, whether out of pride or guilt or whatever, were always a bit unsettled by the presence of Jesus.  It was very seldom that I would meet someone who was completely indifferent and not in the least bit unaffected. 

One day I came into a room and a patient automatically started crying. Sometimes the relatives would cry when I blessed someone sick who could not receive.  Why was this?  Because they knew, somehow and believed, like we do, that this was really Jesus.  No one else could have that effect on people.  If I brought a loaf of bread around, do you think that it would make any difference?

Even when people don’t receive, you can tell by their faces that they know there is something there, something different, something mysterious.

The Eucharist is a kind of paradox, or contradiction.  It seems to be only a piece of bread, but it isn’t.  It is so simple yet it is way beyond our understanding. How can it be possible that the Lord God who created everything, can become present to us in a tiny piece of bread through the hands of a priest who is a sinner? How can it be that the Lord obeys the words of a priest at the consecration of the mass? This is a great mystery, but we believe it has come from Jesus himself and that is why we believe it. In the earliest description of the mass, St. Paul begins by saying, ‘This is what I received from the Lord and in turn pass on to you…’ Jesus taught it to Paul directly, after He had risen from the dead. Jesus taught it to the other disciples when He was with them.

Because God wants to exclude no one, He gives himself to us in the most basic and simple way possible: in bread, one of the most basic of foods.  It is so simple that everyone can believe it and yet it is also totally beyond our understanding.  God reveals himself to us ‘in mystery’, like the burning bush before Moses; it was a contradiction.  The Holy Eucharist is there before us, but we can not understand it.

Jesus says in the Gospel, ‘I bless you Father … for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to mere
children, for that is what it pleased you to do.  We can accept it like children, but if we try to understand it, we will find that it is beyond us.  Sometimes it is very educated who people give up when they come to the teaching on the Eucharist, because they try to understand it and can’t.  ‘It defies logic’, people will say, and they’re right.  To believe in it, we have to recognise that it is beyond us, in other words that God is beyond us.  We have to acknowledge that we are small and very limited in our understanding.  Once we do this, then God can begin to work in us and work powerfully through us, because we have opened the door to him.
The Eucharist is a kind of doorway to our faith.  It is the way in, but it’s also where a lot of people get stuck.  When Jesus first spoke about the Eucharist and said, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you can not have life within you’, many of his followers left him, they couldn’t take this.  But notice that He didn’t go after them and try to explain it.  He just left it with them as He had spoken.  It requires faith.

I want to finish with the story of St. Margaret Clithero. In the late 1500s this woman lived in the town of York in England.  She was a convert to Catholicism at a time when it was against the law to be a Catholic.  Priests used to come to her disguised as cloth penders, bringing her the Eucharist and she would hide them.  She never saw mass in a public church or heard a Catholic hymn being sung even though she lived next to York Minster Cathedral.  It was an Anglican church at the time.

She was eventually found out and she was dragged from the butcher shop where she worked and brought before magistrates and ordered to plead guilty or not guilty, so that she could go on trial.  She refused as she didn’t want her innocent blood to be on the head of twelve jurors.  She said, ‘If you want to condemn me, condemn me yourself’.  The judge said’ ‘Because you are a woman I will let you go free, but you must promise never to hide these priests again.’
He handed her the bible and told her to swear on it.  So she took the bible in open court and held it up in the air and said, ‘I swear by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you let me go free, I will hide priests again, because they are the only ones who can bring us the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

So, just over 400 years ago, she was brought to St. Michael’s bridge in York and given the punishment, worse than being hung, drawn and quartered.  It was called in English law, ‘the punishment most severe’.  She was pressed to death under heavy weights.  It was to take three days and she was to receive only a little muddy water to drink to keep her alive.  The executioner was bribed and he put a stone under her head so that she died within an hour as her neck was broken.  She was the mother of eight children, and some of them were there when she was executed.
In the little chapel that is there to her memory in York today, there is an inscription over the door, which is a message for our times.  It says ‘She died for the mass’.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

6th Sunday Year B (Gospel: Mark 1:40-45) Beethoven and the mystery of suffering

Today we are given one of the many encounters of Jesus’ healing someone who had the terrible disease of leprosy.  Apart from the fact that leprosy was physically so horrible, with a person’s flesh literally rotting on their body, it also had the added pain of excluding them from the community because of the fear of contamination.  Anyone who had leprosy had to live outside the community.  Notice how it says in the Gospel that when Jesus heals this man he ‘sternly warned him not to tell anyone’.  But in the man’s enthusiasm he couldn’t help himself and began talking about it everywhere.  Because of this people realised that Jesus had been in contact with a leper and so he could now be infected himself.  As a result he then had to stay outside the towns ‘in places where nobody lived’.  This kind of thing must have been very frustrating for Jesus, but he had to put up with it and adapt his mission accordingly. 

I’m sure there were many thousands of people in Jesus’ time who also needed healing, but who didn’t ever get to meet Jesus.  Jesus healed those people who came to him and asked for help, but that would have been relatively few.  Do you ever wonder why the Lord allowed so many others to remain sick, or why He allows us to be sick?  Is it possible that any good can come out of the sicknesses we have to go through?

Recently I came across a beautiful story about the composer Beethoven (1770-1827).  Ludvig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany and he really had quite a sad life.  He suffered from a great lack of affection, because his mother died when he was very young and his father was an alcoholic who used to beat him.  His father eventually died as a drunk on the streets.  His biological brother never helped him either and on top of it all symptoms of deafness started to disturb him, leaving him nervous and irritable.  There was however, a German prince who became his benefactor and was like a second father to him.  But then the prince died and between his deafness and loneliness he went into a terrible depression and eventually began to wonder whether there was any point in him going on living.

At that stage Beethoven could only hear using a kind of horn-shaped trumpet in his ear.  He always carried with him a notebook, so that he could write and communicate with others, but many didn’t have the patience for this and so he began to feel more isolated and alone.  Feeling that nobody understood him or wanted to help him, Beethoven withdrew more and more into himself and avoided people. He became so depressed that he prepared his will saying that maybe it was better for him to commit suicide.

But then God’s providence intervened.  A young blind woman who lived in the same boarding house where he had moved to, told him one night, shouting into his ears: “I would give everything to see the moonlight.”  Listening to her, Beethoven was moved to tears because he realised that he could see! And he could compose music and write it on paper!  A strong will to live came back to him and led him to compose one of his most beautiful pieces: “Mondscheinsonate” – “Moonlight Sonata”.

In its main theme, the melody imitates and resembles the slow steps of people, possibly of Beethoven himself and others, carrying the coffin of the German prince, his friend, patron and benefactor.  Some music scholars say that the notes that repeat themselves, insistently, in the main theme of the 1º movement of the Sonata, might be the syllables of the words “Warum? Warum”? (Why? Why?) or another similar word.  Years later, having overcome his sorrow, Beethoven wrote the incomparable “Ode to Joy” from his “Ninth Symphony”, Beethoven’s magnum opus, which crowned the life work of this remarkable composer.

He conducted the first performance himself in 1824. By then because he was totally deaf, he failed to hear the applause. One of the soloists gently turned him around to see the hall full of a wildly cheering crowd. It is said the “Ode to Joy” expresses Beethoven’s gratitude to life and to God for not having committed suicide.  And all this thanks to that blind young woman, who inspired in him the desire to translate into musical notes, a moonlit night.  Using his skill, Beethoven, the composer who could not hear, portrayed through this beautiful melody, the beauty of a night bathed by the moonlight, for a girl who could not see it with her physical eyes.

We do not know why we have to suffer but perhaps more good comes out of it than we realise.  No doubt the blind girl who inspired Beethoven could never have imagined that any good could have come from her being blind and yet look what happened.  I am sure that when we get to heaven we will be amazed at how many parts of our life that don’t seem to make any sense now, will all fit together.