In the Ignatian Lay Volunteer (ILV) group that I belong to we are reading God, You’re Breaking My Heart by Jesuit Brian Grogan. It is not a comfortable read but it is timely. The subtitle is What is God’s response to suffering and evil? I find my soul weighted down with the sadness of what is happening in our world. This was how I went to the meeting the other night. Broken systems, shattered hearts, and destroyed lives — it all seems so senseless.
I facilitated the evening and as we progressed through the sharing, I felt myself being buoyed up by this group of faithful followers. Earlier on someone mentioned this adage: When bad things happen, look for good people. I had never heard that before but it resonated with me. We need to not let the darkness defeat us but rather focus on those who are creating change, standing up, and speaking out. In daily life, we encounter people who are willing to be a balm for all wounds. This takes courage and can go unnoticed. We must not only look for these people, we must strive to be those people.
The chapter we were discussing that night used as an example Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman, who wrote while in the hellish surroundings of a death camp: Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning. On a train to Auschwitz, she tossed out a postcard, later found by farmers with these words: We left the camp singing. Such a profound depth of spirit! Etty knew that pain and suffering co-exist with joy and beauty. She somehow found a balance in order to discover that peace that surpasses understanding. She found that she needed to safeguard that little piece of God that lives within each of us and allows us to move beyond the sorrow and anger to being healers.
By the end of the circle rounds, most of us had our hope restored as we talked about the gift of our own ministries and reflected upon the readings. Tonight watching the news which announced the non-guilty verdict in the trial of a 15-year-old Indigenous girl who was murdered and dumped like garbage into the river here in my hometown, the sadness crept up again. Look for the good people, I whispered to myself and there it was: the great aunt who had raised Tina was the voice of reason, asking for peace and not violence. Despite, and probably because of, her own heartache, she sent a message requesting calm. I will be looking for good people in these hard days ahead as we look with shame upon our nation who has failed Indigenous people again. We need people who are willing to be a balm for the wounds. Despite the tragedies that want to drag us down, life still has beauty. I for one want to leave my earthly tent singing when it is time for me to go Home, hoping that I have safeguarded that little piece of God within me and reached beyond despair to be a healer.
What do you do with the sorrow that can be overwhelming in our world?
Think of an example where something bad has happened but someone good showed the way to beauty and joy.
Balm-for-My-Heart, may I always seek the little pieces of God manifesting themselves in our world when bad things happen. Let us learn to co-exist with the sorrow and pain rather than allow it to defeat us. Strengthen our spirits in these troubling times and help us to be good people too. Amen.