Thinking Anew – ‘Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted’

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

Some weeks ago a young woman told me that her brother had been taken to prison the previous day. It so happens that I know the chaplain in that prison so I phoned him and she was then able to talk with him.

She was relieved and before we parted she expressed how her mother would be so happy to know that her son was safe and sound and was out of harm.

It was a throw-away remark she made but it certainly left an impression and indeed has stayed with me.

Over the years I have been in a number of prisons and I can’t help but think that far too many prisoners have serious psychological issues and that prison is not the place for them. Not for a moment am I saying that offenders should not pay for their crimes but the vast majority of our prisons are occupied by people from less privileged backgrounds. Too many prisons remind me of a Dickensian world.

Maybe it is because of my own age, my work as a hospital chaplain, or the fact that a friend of mine is unwell, I seem to focus on our fragility.

In our youth, indeed, as long as we are healthy and well, and surrounded by a world of good health and good fortune, we can easily forget our own vulnerabilities and fragility. We can believe that we are masters and mistresses of the human race.

It’s a delusion. We’re not. And the more we do to support and help one another, the easier we make it for other people.

There are phrases and sentiments in the readings and prayers of tomorrow’s liturgy that remind us of our vulnerability and brokenness.

In the first reading from the book of Job (7: 1 -4, 6 - 7) we read: “Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery?”

The final sentence in the reading goes: “Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.”

In the Gospel reading (Mark 1: 29 -39) we see how Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law. “He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up.” What a fabulous description of the gentleness and kindness of one person towards another human being. A wonderful statement of what it means to be a Christian person.

And then the response to the responsorial psalm (Psalm 146) tells us to “Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted.” The words can easily trip off our tongues. Better to take a moment out and to think of those words, indeed, to believe that the Lord actually heals the broken-hearted. Surely that gives us solace and hope.

In that Psalm we read: “Praise the Lord for he is good;/sing to our God for he is loving:/to him our praise is due.”

Of course the world is a great place. We all have our ups and downs but anytime we are confronted with pain and suffering and torment, we are forced to ask ourselves what is it all about.

Being kind, helpful and understanding to people always lessens the burden of suffering but eventually we are all doomed. Or are we?

For all of us, with no exceptions, this life ends.

Somehow, someway, something beyond the understanding of any of us, Christians believe that there is resurrection. Most likely it’s unwise to dare give it any sort of human meaning or terms, nevertheless it is a belief that has been handed down to us for generations.

American poet Emily Dickinson writes in her poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”: “And then a Plank in Reason, broke,/And I dropped down, and down –/And hit a World, at every plunge,/And Finished knowing – then –”

There has to be more to us than the whimsicalness of this world? I’m inclined to think we get glimpses or reminders of it when we see kindness, gentleness and goodness being shown to our fellow sisters and brothers.

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