“Per” is the Latin word for “through” and “sonare” is Latin for “sound”. Literally, a person is one through whom sound comes. A personality is somehow the individual manner of sounding. Each voice is just different, even twins can be detected if one listens long enough. Learning people by their faces is easier than distinguishing them through their sounds.
If I had been around when the sacraments of the Catholic Church were set at seven, I would have made some sounds about making “conversation” a sacrament. God spoke, Jesus had many conversations and the Church was missioned to go out and proclaim the Good News to all the nations. Words are more than noise, they convey meaning. Some are graceful and others dis-graceful. Some hold truth and others do not. Conversation unites or divides.
This week we can pray with the on-going conversations which God initiates with us. We can prepare for hearing the Word at Mass by listening attentively to the grace offered each of us through the sounds of others speaking to and with us. We can pray with the graciousness of our encouraging life and growth around us. Our personalities are formed by what we have heard through our ears and our hearts and how we relate with those around us.
The Book of Job consists of various conversations between various individuals. God and the devil begin the story, Job and his friends have a long talk, Job converses with himself and the book ends with God and Job having a bit of courthouse debating.
In our First Reading for this liturgy Job speaks to himself or to whomever might be listening, including God perchance. By this time in the reading of the book, we know all that has befallen this suffering man of faith. In the previous chapter he bewails his condition by claiming that nobody knows the suffering he is experiencing. Now we hear his statements announcing the human condition as nothing but dragging ones life around like a dead rat on a string. Humans just wait around for it all to be over and done with. There is nothing but slavery to an unseen master. Nights are long and days blow past like the wind. Loss, personal pain and deep sadness are all he has and all that it seems he will ever have.
The Gospel is a rather delightful upswing of spirit after listening to old Job. Jesus is on a holy roll. He has cured a man from an unclean spirit and stops briefly at the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law who has a physical sickness is lying in her bed. He touched her and the fever left. At this the whole town turned out and up with the sick and possessed. He cured them as well and forebad again, the unclean spirits to announce Who He was.
Early the next day Jesus slips off to pray and his friends find Him and with some excitement, tell Jesus that His popularity is at an all-time high. He rises and invites them to keep moving on in the salvific conversation He is having with this world. He has come to do such things. His touch is not to be localized, but universalized.
One of my great Jesuit English teachers told me, after reading several of my papers in a literature course, that I was a charter member of the Silver Lining and Happy Ending Society. I love stories, novels, plays, movies and sports contests which end just the way I want them to. A good story leaves me feeling good and especially if it has a little moral or bit of human wisdom to convey. Maybe I like happy endings, because of the reality of suffering within and around me and us. Our local TV stations swamp us with all the bad things going on for most of the half-hour news, but just as a little medical relief, they all end with a pretty, or smiley story and then chuckle or grin as they fade off the screen. The producers know that we all want membership in that Silver-Lining Society.
We do experience the various sufferings of Job and the risings of mama-in-law. It does amaze me how different personalities either react or respond to hurts and losses. Reacting is an instinctual impulse; a knee-jerk flash. Job is having one in our First Reading. Responding is a more personal involvement. This responding is not centered in asking “why” or “what is God asking of me?” In conversations we often fail to hear something or misinterpret what is said. Life is so much like a very long conversation.
Jesus did heal many of the illnesses He encountered as signs of a deeper healing of our human condition. The hardest thing to hear in all this life-long conversing, is that after all, we are humans! Healings, happy-endings, smiles and contentments are temporary! There is more than suffering of course and some have more to drink of that cup than others. I sometimes fantasize that each person should have only one hundred drops of suffering-ade in their lives. There should be a standard amount for each and we could compare with others at what level they might be currently resting or suffering. It is just a fantasy.
There are no easy answers to resolve the questions about suffering. I do not want God, or Jesus, or some greeting card to take my sufferings away, though I do take aspirin. Jesus is not an easy answer to our humanity, but is the Divine relationship with God that ever so slowly moves me from reacting to responding. Suffering has assisted me to be more available to my humanity and that of others. Sorry, no happy-ending story for this one.
“Praise the Lord, Who heals the brokenhearted.” Ps. 147
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook