In the First Reading, Paul writes to the church of God in Corinth, greeting them with words that I want to use to you tonight: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
Your hope for me has been unshaken to paraphrase Paul’s later words. Together we have blessed the Lord at all times as Psalm 34 praises. This poor soul cried and the Lord heard. In fact, we cried out together, spread across the globe, and are happy that we took refuge in God as one body. I read these first two readings and was reassured this morning. I was heading to an appointment with the surgeon who had already told me in the hospital that I had a rare form of liver cancer. I glanced at the Gospel and saw it was Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes. Jesus reaches out to the crowd gathered there and blesses them with reassuring words. Somehow I sensed that despite everything I might receive some good news this day.
Jesus teaches that we are blessed–the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart–and thus we are called to rejoice and be glad. Life offers much joy and much pain. Christ seems to be suggesting that we rejoice anyway. At the end of the readings today was a quote by St. Thomas More: Give me, Lord, a full faith, a firm hope and a fervent love, a love for you incomparably above the love of myself. We need these gifts–faith, hope and love–to be rooted in a church community that carries us when we are frightened, tired, sick, grieving, and in need. I have been so utterly blessed that so many have walked with me. You have consoled me in moments when I needed to be consoled. Many of you who are survivors of cancer have totally understood what I have needed in these past few months. You have known God’s consolation and have shared it with me in my affliction. You shored up my faith, firmed my hope and filled me with love. I am ever grateful so yes, I will rejoice and be glad.
When I met with the surgeon he had hard news about the rare form of cancer but he also delivered great news in that it seems to have been removed completely with the liver resection. He is pleased with how things have gone and, in fact, he is so impressed with my progress that he suggested I could return to work tomorrow. I was stunned because physically I still feel pretty fragile so I convinced him that was a bad idea. He gave me a couple of more weeks to recuperate since it has only been five weeks tomorrow since surgery. I will next see an oncologist to explore further treatment, including the possibility of chemotherapy.
I end with the last words of the First Reading: Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share our sufferings, so also you share in our consolations. My hope continues to be unshaken even as I continue to wait. Thank you for sharing my sufferings and my consolations. As the Psalm concludes: Happy are those who take refuge in the Lord. May we continue this journey together and share the consolations and desolations as we stand unshaken in the refuge of the Great Physician.