Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mass Readings -- 08FEB09, part 1

I wrote about liturgical worship celebrations yesterday using a Lectionary, a collection of Scripture readings appointed for each day of the year, and that a number of religious traditions use pretty much the same cycle of readings, irrespective of where in the world a person might happen to be. Rather than functioning as a straitjacket, the reliance upon the Lectionary can actually be quite freeing.

Just this past Sunday, for example, the readings at Mass were an odd amalgam, but one which worked perfectly for the situation of Soldiers deployed over here Down Range for 15 months. As it turned out, it was the last Sunday here for a whole passel of Soldiers who would be leaving a couple of days later.

The first reading was from Job -- not the happiest of campers. The text, as given in the Lectionary, is worth presenting in its entirety:

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man's life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?"
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again. (NAB: Job 7:1-4, 6-7)

This is good news?

I read it and immediately loved it. It's very curmudgeon-y. I told my Soldiers that a little-known fact about Job was that he was deployed to Iraq for a 15-month tour when he wrote this. (Those who put together the Lectionary conveniently left out one verse, though: "My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out again." Too bad, too! This really completes the deployment picture!)

What I really love about it is that it tells the truth about how the author is feeling.

But then, the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6) follows with:

R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.

R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.
So, following the recitation of Job's miseries, we are immediately reminded that we can have a God who's really, really, really BIG. A God so big that that God not only can number the stars, but who also has a personal relationship with each -- God calls each by name.

That's the way a really, really, really BIG God can relate to each of us, by name. This huge God can be so big that there can be "no situation too great to be bettered, and no unhappiness too great to be lessened" as my friends who go to a lot of Al-Anon meetings keep telling me.

The person who wrote that first reading had a broken heart. God heals broken hearts. Soldiers here in Iraq, far from home and loved ones and in the midst of people -- some of whom we can't stand and some of whom can't stand us (and some even to the point of trying to kill us) -- we'd rather not be around, can have a God who can heal *our* broken hearts, too. A God who can bind up our wounds, whether physical or psychological.

But wait, there's more!

However, it's late, so I'll tackle that tomorrow.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Eileen

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