29 April 2010
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
“Love in suffering”
My dear Derrick, my darling Sarah and my precious Simon,
I know it brings you comfort to know that at this very moment there are family and friends (and indeed many people you do not even know) in cities around the world and specifically in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia who are holding you lovingly in prayer.
It is at times like this when we are faced with the harsh reality of our own mortality that we stop and ask ourselves some of the tough questions:
– What’s this life all about ?
– What’s the purpose? What MY purpose?
– Why do Good people suffer ?
At times like this familiar things that we previously took for granted look different; things feel different; things sound different. Everything is different.
In the reading that we heard from John’s Gospel, it is the night before Jesus would be put to death and he is trying to prepare his 12 closest disciples, those who knew him best, for the difficult road that lay ahead. After this night, everything would be different.
He knew that following his death their world would collapse around their ears and that they would be asking difficult questions:
– why did he have to die ?
– why did he have to suffer so much ?
– has this journey been a complete waste of time ?
– where to from here ?
Jesus reassures them and says: “Do not be afraid. Do not let your hearts be troubled. I’m going ahead to prepare a place for all of us and one day we will all be together again. You know the way so just follow me. “
He says the same to each one of us here this morning: You know the way – follow me.
But perhaps as was Thomas, we’re a little confused; we’re actually not that sure:
– Do I know the way .. ?
– Are there sign posts ?
– Is there a guide book ?
– Are there perhaps satellite co-ordinates ?
We should never be afraid or ashamed of our doubts. Those who seek with an open fervent heart will surely find the Way.
Jesus didn’t give them a handbook on the theology of life and death; morality and ethics or suffering and pain. He says “Have faith in me. I am the way and the truth and the life.”
What does Jesus mean by “I am the way?”
William Barclay gives a lovely analogy in his Study Bible.
He says : Suppose we are in a strange town and ask for directions. Suppose the person asked says “Take the first turn right, and then the second left. Cross the square, go past the church, take the third right and then the road you want is the first on your left.” The chances are that we’ll be lost before we get half way. But suppose the person says: “Come I’ll take you there.” In that case the person is the way and we cannot miss it. That is what Jesus does for us. He takes us by the hand and leads us; he strengthens us through the sacraments and guides us through his Word.
His way is love, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, mercy, justice and wisdom, fortitude, knowledge, piety – all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The way is hard. It is the way of the Cross.
Sue’s in her suffering was for each of us the suffering Christ and through her painful journey she has shown us the Way. Our response to her suffering over these past three and a half years revealed to her and revealed to each of us the gifts of the Holy Spirit – the very Spirit of Jesus: love, compassion, understanding, consideration, patience, gentleness, unselfish caring and concern for her wellbeing.
We are called to echo that love in all our relationships throughout our lives.
Jesus said “I am the truth”
– Not I will teach you about truth – I AM the truth.
– Jesus reveals to us the truth about God
We are created by God in love to know God, love God and serve God. We are created in love, to love and to be loved.
In his life, his death and his resurrection Jesus gave us the perfect example of the truth about God’s love for us. Each one of us is loved by God unconditionally – whether we like it or not. There is nothing we can do (absolutely nothing) in our lives that can change that love. Only we can choose not to love; choose to walk away from the promise of eternal life and eternal love.
Sue believed that promise and throughout her life she loved generously with gentle kindness.
I have no doubt that our precious Sue is in heaven.
Jesus said “I am the life.”
We all have a great desire for life. Sue loved life and fought hard to beat death and there were times when she questioned why she was going through this terrible ordeal with cancer – but God’s love lived always in her heart and our prayers brought her enormous comfort and strength.
“I go to prepare a place for you!” says Jesus.
“I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”
This life is transitory; we are pilgrims on a journey to eternal life.
We find our way to eternal life through love.
We find the love that God has for each of us through our love for one another.
When we think back on Sue’s life and her pilgrimage to heaven, we will glimpse moments when God’s love for us was revealed to us through Sue’s love for us.
Let those moments and those memories nourish and sustain us on our journey until you too are called to eternal life with God.