Remember also, Lord, your servants, who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace. These words were spoken at a funeral I attended today, reminding me that angels are resting well once their work is done. The deceased had led a good and full life. Now, he enters into a place of refreshment, Light and peace where there is no more pain and suffering.
One of the lessons I have learned this year is that I am heading to a place that I long for with all my heart. The priest joked today that heaven was not a place for people to fear because they did not know how to play the harp. I chuckled at that since I am fairly musically inept. I imagine more of a place that is described above. If you play the harp or the violin, you can play it. As for me, I will be one of the resting angels for the first bit, before I get bored and want to do something else to refresh myself.
Today marks the anniversary of the eight martyrs of North America–six Jesuit priests and their two lay assistants. The most famous of these is John de Brebeuf. These missionary men came from Europe and worked amongst the Aboriginal people in the USA and Canada. I have been to the shrine in Midland, Ontario that acknowledges the legacy of these men. It gives reason for pause. These men are not resting. As saints they intercede for us still.
The readings that celebrate the martyrs’ mass are comforting as I remember my sister who died on this date 23 years ago. The reading from Revelation 7 concludes with the beautiful promise that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. We have a personal God who cries with us in our sorrow. The Deity we worship is well-acquainted with grief and loss. This is the God that allows us to respond as in the second reading from 2 Corinthians 4:
We have this treasure in clay vessels, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
Every step I have taken in life has been through the extraordinary power that is given from God. I know this from my grief journey and I know it from my illness from cancer. After a rough week, I have landed here gently among these spectacular words which have been a blessed reminder that God.has.this.
The Gospel reading from Luke 9 is clear as Jesus instructs his disciples: If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. No free rides exist for believers. As horrible as I have felt physically this week, compounded with the emotional memory of my sister’s death, I can still say that I am standing. I have been struck down this week, but not destroyed. Daily taking up my cross may be the new norm for me for the next few months. I know that sucks. When I look at the hardships that the martyrs went through and when I look at the other patients in the chemo treatment room, I can truly say that I am afflicted in every way but I refuse to be crushed by this. Even if it gets to that, I need to pray that something good will still come of it.
One day, when I am a resting angel, when I am settled in that divine place of refreshment, light and peace, I will no longer need to pick up that cross. Until then, I am following Christ right down the hard path, with as much trust and faith as I can muster. I am carried by the prayers of many and grateful every moment for the power of God at work in my life.
What does picking up your daily cross look like?
How are you struck down but not destroyed?
God of abundant power and mercy,
You have a divine place awaiting us
filled with refreshment, light and peace.
Until then, we are not resting angels
who sleep without troubles.
Be with us, Gracious One,
Whose own knees are skinned and bloodied
from being struck down.
Remind us we are not forsaken,
not destroyed, protected from despair.
To You be all power and glory.