Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
February 8th, 2015
Year B

Almost three weeks ago a friend of mine died. His name – Paul Coakley. Paul was diagnosed with cancer at Christmas time, he battled and suffered for about a month until, on January 20th, after being unresponsive for nearly 24 hours, God called him home. He was just a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday. He leaves behind his wife and 4 kids, one in the womb. He also leaves behind a 100 year old house that he was renovating – not to mention his parents, siblings and his friends. Paul and I were friends in college and fraternity brothers. I was asked to be the one to deliver the homily at his funeral Mass. It was probably one of the most difficult homilies I have ever had to deliver. Paul lived life in the fullest sense and his faith as well. The reason why I mention him today is because his story actually helps us to understand the readings of the Mass – where we are dealing with the problem of suffering. In the case of my friend there are two types of suffering: that which he endured through cancer and that which we endure now, the grieving. In both cases, questions such as “why” always makes things even that much more difficult to comprehend. Each day since his passing I have been trying to process life without my friend – I can’t even begin to imagine his wife and family and their own grieving process.

In his homily for today, Fr. Robert Barron makes a good point about the theology of suffering: there is a unique juxtaposition between Job and Jesus. He explains:
In the first reading Job faces a great deal of suffering. Why would an All Benevolent God allow for a person to undergo such depth of suffering and pain. Job, having lost everything a human being could possibly lose, embraces every single aspect of human suffering – physical, psychological, spiritual, and even death. In this particular passage, we hear of his lament. Life to him has become miserable. It is not so difficult to identify with Job. We all experience deep pain in our lives to the point where we might be asking ourselves: how does all this make any sense? If God is all Good: why suffer? Why pain? Why death? Later on in the Book of Job we will hear of God’s response – “were you there when I made the stars? Were you there when I made the sea?” God invites Job to understand that his suffering in one small piece of the puzzle. There is a larger picture to see, something far greater to comprehend... there is a plan. The message He sends is that we cannot say that suffering and pain have no meaning until we are able to see the bigger picture, until we are able to have God’s own perspective. Thus, in the midst of deep suffering and pain, a better question to ask is: what is God’s plan here? What is He trying to convey to us? At the same time, however, we are still left somewhat unsatisfied.

Turning to the Gospel we find a completely different scenario. People were flocking to Jesus for healing. They do so because He speaks and acts with the authority of God. The people here are no different that Job, they are no different than you and I. They come to Jesus with physical, psychological, spiritual pain and suffering. They come to Him with the same questions: why? What is the meaning of all this? What is Your plan? Jesus responds differently: He heals. He acts. He allows divine power to flow through Him. But I’m sure He didn’t heal everyone. Just because He healed the blind, blindness doesn’t end. Leprosy doesn’t end because He healed lepers. Death doesn’t end because He raised Lazarus from the tomb. Here is where my struggle lies. Why not heal my friend? Obviously there is a plan. A bigger picture that I am unable to perceive – as many of us are unable to see when in the midst of such turmoil in life. But, Fr. Barron explains, we do get something: solidarity. We get solidarity from our friend and brother – God made Man: Jesus Christ. He takes on the agony, the pain, the anguish and all the suffering of all humanity. He takes it on, He enters into it. And we find its fullest expression on the Cross. There is indeed a plan – there is meaning in our suffering – but even in that, we have so much more… we have solidarity. We have the Word made Flesh who now comes to us in the form of bread and wine. He offers us His very self in Holy Communion, He enters into our suffering and He fills us with Himself, with His grace. We gain solidarity.

It might not answer the questions we have about suffering and pain – or grieving – that we hold in our hearts. But we do know that we have an advocate. We do know that our suffering means something and that it gains us solidarity with Jesus Christ. May we, therefore, never despair, never lose heart, and never lose hope in the Good God who loves us with an unconditional love.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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