Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why me, Lord?

There are times in life when answers are hard to find, when they seem to slip away from outstretched hands. There are times when it is difficult to know why God seems to say ‘no’ to prayers that have been unendingly asking for ‘yes’. When the ‘no’ comes, it is so easy to ask “Why? Why me, Lord”?

This morning, one of the Jesuits at Vatican Radio told me a story, not knowing that he was answering some of my own questions and searching. I don’t remember all the details, but it was about a man who nearly drowned. When he managed to climb out of the river, he noticed a flower growing on the riverbank. It was exquisite.

As the man walked home, he realised that the grass was greener, the sky more blue and the world so much more beautiful than ever it had seemed before. Because he had almost died, the man suddenly realised that, in the space of those few minutes, he had learned to appreciate life.

Eventually, the man reached home. His wife opened the door and suddenly he saw her as lovely and hugged her in gratitude.

Every one of us goes through hard times. Sometimes they are expected, sometimes unexpected. It is easy to be angry and to be bitter. If the cause of the misfortune is another person, revenge would be so sweet. It would be so good to cause as much suffering as that which has been received… or would it? Isn’t it better for having done the right thing and to go to bed with an easy conscience than to spend the rest of one’s life knowing guilt and remorse that can, perhaps never be entirely put to rest?

The proverb says that every cloud has a silver lining. It’s almost become a cliché, but look more closely. In the darkest hours, wasn’t there a chink of light to cause even a momentary smile? Wasn’t there a moment of togetherness in the midst of isolation, of peace in the anger, of beauty in the horror?

At lunchtime today, I walked around the base of the Castel Sant’Angelo and, as I approached Vatican Radio, a cloud of soap bubbles floated into the air from one of the vendors at the roadside. Each bubble reflected the light and was transformed into something radiantly beautiful. Mere soap and water became transformed into a jewel, a rainbow, suspended momentarily against the deep blue sky.

In the midst of pain, there are jewels if only, instead of closing my heart and eyes, I keep them open. The choice is mine. Do I let my heart be broken, or do I break it open to love? Perhaps the question, “Why me?” sometimes has an answer, “Why not?”

Suffering can be a golden opportunity to learn a lesson that could not have been learned in any other way. The man in the story almost drowned, but in so doing, he found the value of living. He found the loveliness of the wife to whom he had been married for many years and yet had, as time passed by, taken for granted. The learning is tough. It is painful. It would be good to escape it, but, in the midst of it all, there is God. He
Will keep me safe. He will help me to find the treasure he placed in my heart. Even if it is a treasure hidden from the rest of the world, he will find it and make the darkest night shine like the day.

Stars can be seen at their clearest from the top of a mountain, but the mountain has first to be climbed.

God bless,
Sr. Janet