Fifth Sunday of Easter & Mother’s Day – Psalm 30:2-12
Several years ago, in an unscripted moment, a little girl in Manila asked the visiting Pope Francis why God allows children to suffer. She had just told him in front of a million people that she scrounged food from the garbage and slept outside on a cardboard mat.
Here’s what the Pope did. He enfolded the sobbing child in his arms. Then he admonished everyone to quiet down and pay close attention, he then said, “She has just asked the one question with no answer.”[I]
As the days and weeks and now months of this pandemic continue, and we see our fellow Americans dying, over 70,000 so far, and so many more across the globe, the Pope’s response to this little girl’s question looms large. Why does God allow such suffering?
Well, when the crowd finally settled down, Pope Francis said to the little girl, “We can’t answer you now. Only when we are able to weep about the things you have lived will we understand anything and be able to answer you.” He went on to say that the world needs to weep. “The marginalized weep, the scorned weep, the sick and dying weep – but we who are privileged, we don’t always know how. We must learn.” [ii]
In these awful days of virus-related illness and death, whenever we’re asked why these things happen, let us not be quick to answer. Let us not skip to judgement, either of God or one another. But how can I say something like this during such dark and uncertain times? Well, perhaps because it’s because of the assurance we can receive from word of wisdom and hope like the one we have before us today.
In Psalm 30, David seems to be rejoicing at the end of a trying time. “God, my God,” he said, “I yelled for help and you put me together. You pulled me out of the grave, and gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.” He goes on to say, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”[iii]
Yes, as Francis said, “we must learn to weep.” But, my friends, The Psalmist tells us that it doesn’t end with the weeping or the mourning or the grief. The darkness of this pandemic doesn’t have the last say. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” There will be life after this time of death. Light will break through the darkness.
But, that being said, I think we have to be careful here. Careful, because to get to the “joy in the morning” part we have to move through, embrace, deal-with, and grieve the dark night of our soul. In other words, we can’t get to the warm-fuzzy without going through the cold-prickly first. A cold-prickly that goes beyond just mourning the dead and learning to exist in a recessive economy. A big part of what we have to come to terms with in this dark night of Covid-19 is the unknown. Our future is unknown. How severe this could get here in Northern Wisconsin, is unknown. When everything will open-up and return to some semblance of normal, is unknown. And like the Pope’s answer to the little girl’s question, there are some deeper theological issues that have no answer.
Maybe think of it like this. All of what we as humans know about God could be represented by a single grain of cosmic dust. What we don’t know about God, the Mysterious, could fill the rest of the universe. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer when it comes to trying to wrap our minds around a time of suffering and death of this magnitude.
But then there’s that single grain of cosmic dust; the part we do know. And David, here in Psalm 30, says it in what I think is the best way possible. “…across a lifetime,” he says, “there is only love.” There is only love. My friends, that’s the warm-fuzzy we’ve been seeking. That’s the rainbow after the storm. That’s the joy that comes in the morning! Across the lifetime of our ancestors, across our lifetime, across the lifetime of our children and our grand-children and their grand-children, there will be love because God is love! God is love!
So, let us weep now. Let us weep with the families of those who have died. Let us weep with those who are ill. Let us weep with those suffering financial loss. Let us weep with the marginalized and the outcast, the homeless, and the refugee, and the immigrant. Let us weep for our planet, for the changing climate and the loss of so many species of animal and insect. Let us weep together in the darkness. But tomorrow… tomorrow the sun will rise and we will be called and challenged, in the light of day, to do our part, to be safe for the safety of others, to seek justice for all people, to coexist with all religions and work toward a day with peace will prevail. In the light of day, we can and we will, once again, find our joy!
I’m going to leave you today with an old Ojibway Prayer that goes like this: “Grandfather, Sacred one. Teach us love, compassion, and honor. That we may heal the earth and heal each other.” Let us indwell these ancient words of wisdom as we seek a joyous morning not only for ourselves but for all our neighbors, those across the street and those on the other side of the globe.
[ii] Ibid. Luti
[iii] Psalm 3:5b New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Copyright © 1989