5th Sun [C] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Viewing the images coming out of Haiti, pictures of little children suffering terribly, some with arms and legs hastily and excruciatingly amputated, pictures of desperate people struggling for a swallow of water or a bit of food, along with other images of terrible and painful human suffering, who has not wondered why God has allowed such cruelties to beset us not only now but down through the ages of human history? Why is it that this happens when God is all-powerful and infinitely good? Where is God in human suffering?
The question, framed as it is, presumes something. It presumes that God was supposed to make a perfect world in which He takes care of everything in such a way that we all live in serene bliss. I would like to address the question with another question: If God made the world that way, wouldn’t He have sold us short?
Think about this: suppose God wanted us to be in His image and likeness. Would not that mean that we, with Him, are necessary in order to bring the world out of chaos and into completion? Otherwise we would not accomplish anything and our human hearts and spirits would live in flattened and insignificant lives. Stated another way, the world God has given us is a world in which we are to make the decisions, do the work, and accomplish God’s tasks. Stated in an even bolder way – God needs us.
The God who needs us is found in a little baby with cancer, in babies born into withdrawal when delivered from their drug-addicted mothers’ wombs, in the amputated children of Haiti. The God who suffers is found in the deep recesses of the crushed and suffering population of Port-au-Prince. God is present, profoundly present in human suffering. Take a look at the crucifix – doesn’t that tell us where God is?
A physician’s calling from God — a physician’s vocation — is to apply all his or her skills to work with the Divine Physician in bringing healing and wholeness to broken humanity. A lawyer’s calling from God — a lawyer’s vocation — is apply all of his or her skills to protect the rights of human’s who have been unjustly and unfairly treated at the hands of perpetrators who have injured, defrauded, and otherwise trampled on them. A teacher’s calling from God — a teacher’s vocation — is to bring God’s light, truth, and understanding to the minds of those whose minds live in darkness and ignorance, lacking the necessary skills with which to make their ways through life in a world that can be cruel and merciless. Each one of us has a particular call from God, God calling us to reveal His presence in our humanity.
In today’s first reading we find the prophet Isaiah living in the midst of calamity. His nation had been torn asunder with the northern part conquered by the Assyrians and its people carried off in captivity, the southern part living in moral and spiritual degradation. He declares that he is a doomed man living among a doomed people. Yet was to Isaiah that God gave His call to bring order, God’s order, out of all the chaos. Isaiah’s response was: “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
In the second reading we find the great apostle Paul proclaiming the mighty works that God was accomplishing in him despite his own unworthiness.
The gospel account, one so familiar to us, tells us that no matter how futile our efforts may appear to be, God chooses to work through our efforts and He will successfully accomplish His purposes if we respond to His call. Powerful forces are at work in our world, forces that seek to have us give up in despair. The Gospel account reminds us that Peter and his companions had given up their failed efforts at fishing. Peter, however, in an act of faith, heeds the call of Jesus and as a result experiences astonishing success.
God is present in the Haitian people. Likewise God is present in those wonderful people who have responded to His call and are devoting themselves to helping the Haitians in their calamity. The suffering Christ and the saving Christ is present; the suffering Christ and the saving Christ is present wherever and whenever we find ourselves dealing with all that attempts to destroy us.
God has given us a world in which people are necessary for Him in order to get things done. To be sure, God gives us guidelines; to be sure God gives us prophets and priests; to be sure God gives us vision and purpose. But having given us His manifold gifts along with His offer to be with us, He in turn waits for our response. God offers – we respond. Everything depends upon our response.
St. Teresa of Avila lived during the 1500’s, a tumultuous time in our human history. She wrote a beautiful reflection that applies to us today just as much as it did to the people of her day. She wrote:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Where is an all-loving God in the midst of human pain, loss, and suffering? He is here, here in His broken Body and in His poured out Blood when we are about to receive in His Eucharist — receive not just for our own salvation but for the love of God which He wants us to share with all who, like His only-begotten Son, experience crucifixion. Here we receive His risen Spirit-filled Body and Blood promising us final victory over sin and death.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”