There is a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, who ended up in one of the concentration camps during the Second World War. He noticed that the people who survived the longest were not necessarily those who were physically the strongest. It was the people who had a purpose, a reason to live, such as a wife, or husband they wanted to see again, or if they had faith. Those who lived the longest were the ones who had what you might call ‘spiritual purpose’.
As we go through the various struggles and trials that we are continually faced with, sickness and death of our loved ones, marriages breaking up, we often see them as things ‘going wrong.’ Sometimes people even see it as a punishment of some kind. So many times I have heard people say to me, ‘Why did this happen to me. I never did anything wrong?’ as though they were being punished. I think that when we die we will see that many of the things that we considered ‘things going wrong’, played a part in our journey. That doesn’t mean that when we are faced with evil, it is not evil. It is, but God still can and does use it to bring about good.
For the most part there is evil around us because of the actions of other people. We have free will and we can use it to do good or evil. Our actions have consequences and affect the people around us. When people choose to do evil, others suffer. That is why there is so much suffering in the world at this time, because people choose evil, through greed, or selfishness. If God kept stopping us from doing evil, we wouldn’t have free will. So God allows us to choose good or evil, but we will also be accountable for our actions and the suffering we cause others. But God can always bring good out of evil. The greatest disaster in history, what we call Original Sin, caused us to lose eternal life with God. What could be worse than that? But out of it came the greatest good in history, which is Jesus; God made man and also eternal life with him; eternal life, not just a temporary gift.
If you take faith out of the picture, everything changes. If there was no God, then why should we make sacrifices? We would have every excuse to just take care of ourselves and our loved ones and make ourselves as comfortable as possible. But our faith makes us see things completely differently. Because God is real and our destiny is to be with him for all eternity, then what we go through in this life takes on a different perspective, because it is only temporary and it all has a part in helping us to become holier people. You could describe holiness as being ‘the best version of ourselves, that we can be.’ Depending on how we face them, the trials that we go through can have a big part in forming us, in purifying us and helping us to grow in holiness. That is also why suicide, abortion and euthanasia are not only sinful, but such terrible tragedies as well. The temptation is to think that if my life ends, then all the suffering is over. In fact, that is what you hear people saying all the time, when they are referring to someone who has died. ‘At least they won’t suffer any more.’ But if deliberately cutting a life short, through suicide, or euthanasia, or abortion, is also cutting off some of the very trials that would have helped bring us closer to God, then we are missing out. That is why God tells us not to kill. Only God can decide when we are to die. It is normal that we don’t want to suffer, but we cannot avoid a certain amount of it and Jesus said that the path to heaven involves suffering: ‘Unless you take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple’ (Matt 16:24). ‘Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to heaven and few find it’ (Matt 7:14). We want the easy way and our world tells us we should be able to have the easy way, but that is not what the Lord tells us. Who will you listen to?
When we get to heaven, please God, I think we will look back and see that everything that we went through played a part in getting us ready to be with God. You see it all the time, how suffering changes people. People mature and often begin to see what is most important in our life on earth. If we were not faced with those same trials/sufferings, would we see what is truly important? You know how the sickness, or death of a family member can change everything, especially if it is a young person. All our priorities change. The things of this world suddenly become almost irrelevant.
So many people at the end of their life go through sickness and pain, which often seems so unfair. But I am sure that it is often the final purification that God allows us to go through before we come into God’s presence. When people die, we tend to refer to them as immediately being in heaven, but probably not many people are ready to come directly into God’s presence. It is so important that we pray for them and sadly it is something that is greatly neglected. We keep reminders of them everywhere, but we don’t pray for them. I would rather that there be no reminders of me anywhere, but instead that people pray for me and have masses offered for me when I die.
on our faith is probably one of the most important things we can do
for the next generation, because our faith is what puts everything in
perspective. If there was no world after this one, what a cruel world
it would be for so many people, as most people suffer quite a lot.
It always grieves me when I hear parents saying that they are not going to teach their children about any faith, because they want them to choose when they grow up. First of all, if they are not given any grounding in some faith, it is very unlikely they will choose any faith when they get older. Secondly, their minds are going to be formed one way or the other. Would you rather that their minds be formed by the violence and evil that fills the internet and TV, or in the ways of God? We must do everything we can to teach the next generation about God. I know that many of you here are grandparents. Don’t underestimate the influence you have on your grandchildren. We have a different kind of respect for our grandparents. Don’t apologize for what you believe in. It may be the greatest favor you do for your grandchildren.
When we were in the seminary, they did a survey asking us various questions about our faith. One question was, who influenced us the most in our faith. The majority of people said it was their grandparents. When we are growing up we tend to rebel against our parents as we are finding our feet and our independence, but we listen to our grandparents in a different way. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you believe in.
We are living in a time of increasing Godlessness and we can see the results in our society: chaos and violence. Look at what happens in communist countries where God is denied and atheism is taught: the person loses all dignity. They are simply there to serve the state. Because of that, life becomes cheap. Having faith changes all that, because God shows us that every human being has equal value and will live for all eternity.
What can we do to pass on our faith? Live it as well as you can. When you really try and live your faith, you don’t have to say very much, because your actions and decisions say everything.
Jesus Christ is the only one who makes sense of what our life is about and why we are here. We are on our way to be with him in heaven and all the things that are happening to you, have a part to play in your journey towards God. Believing that helps us to accept the difficulties that come our way as part of our journey to heaven. That’s why we use the phrase ‘offer it up.’ Offer up to God everything that you go through, so that it may help to form you.
In the second reading St. Paul is talking about how he longs to be gone to God in heaven. He had already been allowed to experience heaven and now he wants nothing else, but he knows that he has an important role to play on earth, passing on the faith to others. Until our time comes to be with God, we must do our best to pass on this faith to those who come after us, so that they also may understand the purpose of their life.