Friday, December 19, 2014

These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls

Two weeks ago at the Caregiver’s Support Group meeting 91-year old Wally told us that the love of his life, his Annie, had died.  I only know Wally through those caregiver’s meetings, but it felt like I had been punched in the gut.  I hurt for his pain.  In sending notices out of Wally’s loss to members of the group who had not attended that meeting, Alicia responded in sympathy … and noted that her mother had also passed the previous week.
Last Saturday night I invited some friends to a local team’s hockey game.  One of men introduced me to the woman in his life; they had so much in common.  Was marriage in the future?? Probably.
This morning the same man told me that she had been a no-show for a dinner this week.  When he visited her home and asked why, she had responded:  “It’s complicated,” and wouldn’t talk to him --- and hasn’t since.  This morning he expressed his bewilderment, shock, anger, and frustration.  “People who care about each other don’t do this.  They talk; they’re there for each other.  I don’t understand.”
And I could feel his pain also.
“These are the times that try men’s souls” are the words of Thomas Paine.  He wrote those words to help explain to the colonists what things are worth fighting for.  He also wrote them to unite the colonists in thinking that they were citizens of a United States:  some things are worth fighting for --- together.
The Caregiver’s Support Group is what its name implies:  people who are supporting one another, as friends, as a spiritual family.  This morning I was reading words from a great book, This Tremendous Lover.  The author there is talking about the unity of all Christians in the Mystical Body of Christ, to which they are incorporated at baptism.  He notes:  “We have considered the spiritual life as a development of that union (in the Mystical Body of Christ), and a removal of obstacles … caused by our self-love and self-centeredness.”  A bit later he notes that “the essential points of the spiritual life are:  faith, hope, charity, humility, and generous cooperation with and abandonment to the will of God.”
“All He asks is that we put our faith and hope in Him, that we love Him with our whole heart, that we renounce our own pretended strength and our foolish plans by humility and abandonment; He will do the rest.
I recalled how Jesus had asked Peter three times:  “Do you love me?”  It was an answer Peter had to give three times, and it’s one we need to repeat also.  And we need to trust that in our sorrows, Jesus is sorrowing also, because He loves us.  It echoes to me the Scripture passage where Jesus looked down on Jerusalem and tearfully said: “If thou hadst known …”
I am feeling sadness this Christmas week for my friends who are feeling a deep loss, whether expected or not.  “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  But these are also times for spiritual growth.  These may be times when we want to try to understand: “Why did You do this?”  But if we can have faith, and hope, and humility, and abandonment to the will of God, and say like Peter “Lord, You know that I love You,” we may NOT find an answer to our questions, but we may find peace.
Thomas Paine wanted to united the colonists; Jesus wanted to unite the Jewish people.  Both knew their quests would not be easy.  Both knew there are some things worth fighting for --- and dying for.  To be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ means we are willing to die to self -- what we want, and what we have to know -- and have faith, a strong faith.  This is harder for some of us than for others.  These ARE the times which try men’s souls.  But these are exactly the times we need faith.
And then a trust that: “He will do the rest.”     

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