There is so much sorrow in this world, and at times we are deeply hurt or saddened ourselves. How encouraging is it that we may understand this as signs of an incomplete world, as the pain which accompanies the birth of a new world to come; as something passing, which gives way to a more joyful state of being (John 16:20-22).
And it is not a coincidence that the above words of Paul are
framed by two others:
``I consider that what we suffer at this present time is not worth
comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.''
``We know that in all things God works for good with those who love
him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.''
Realizing this can be a source of great strength in our struggle to
cope with the pain in ourselves, in those close to us, and in the world
at large (cf. v.37).
Lent is a time of fasting, but no one should take the outer signs
for the real thing. Fasting is learning to free ourselves from our
attachments to the pleasures and sorrows of this life
(not from the pleasures and sorrows themselves),
so that we are free for God.
``Let those who have wifes live as though they had none, and those
who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as
though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had
no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no
dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. I want
you to be free from anxieties. I say this for your own benefit, not
to lay any restraint upon you, but to secure your undivided devotion
to the Lord.''
(1 Cor. 7:29-32+35)
The character of everything of this world is that it passes away;
if we cling to something or someone, we die with them.
But God wants to make us fit for eternity, for a new world where death
shall have no power.
``In everything we commend ourselves as servants of God; ... as
dying, and - look! - we live;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoycing; as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.''
(2 Cor. 6:4-10)
``I have learnt, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know to
live with being humiliated and with being highly regarded;
in any and all circumstances I have learnt the secret of facing
plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him
who strengthens me.''
You may also want to contemplate Isaiah 58:3-11 and Matth. 6:16-18.
Arnold Neumaier (Arnold.Neumaier@univie.ac.at)