Junetenth. Father’s Day. Black Lives Matter. Tulsa Oklahoma. Coronavirus. America divided: splits, issues, defind the police, DACA. Tumultuous times. Anxieties. Stress. Loss. Grief. And for Catholics, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. But these are no ordinary times. Or are they?
Struggle defines human life experience. M. Scott Peck captured that reality in the opening lines of the Road Less Travelled: “Life is difficult.” Expectations might deny that, but the truth of it spills out in the power plays and interactions that characterize daily communication. Seeking to outdistance that truth, outrage, frustration, denial and grief jockey for human expression. Seeping into the public sphere, awkward insecurities, misinterpretations of issues and lack of clarity can inhibit real communication about the difficulties and ways of introducing effective change. But if we can maintain a basic understanding that life is difficult, compassion can seed empathy and growth can take place. And if we can believe that there is no need for fear or anxiety, that normal is actually difficult and none of us are immune from that, there is a chance to move beyond where we are.
That is exactly the invitation from the readings this Sunday. The liturgical world refers to this as “Ordinary Time”, but these readings are all about overcoming fear and trusting God’s love. There is Jeremiah’s lament contrasted so deeply with his confidence in God. Romans 5 is a reminder of the overflowing of God’s grace, and John’s Gospel begins with the admonition. “Fear no one.” Trust and confidence are the cornerstones of love; love is the cornerstone of life. That sort of love, deep and certain, concrete and clear, a definitive choice, empowers strength, redefines courage. The idea that God chooses the gift of unconditional love during ordinary times is extraordinary by any standard. Most importantly, in both the mundane and the incomprehensible, there is the rhythm of this love waiting to be found, to sustain and to energize each one through the challenges life represents.
Now is the moment to trust in the fact that even ordinary life is difficult, that there are challenges that can be met with confidence in this unconditional love. There is the chance that in the midst of such tumultuous times, the message of the Gospel offers hope, a perspective for looking at the string of events that are occurring. It means looking at the world with feet firmly planted on the ground, knowing that the earth is shaped by far more than what can be seen. It is a testimony to the idea that in even the most difficult of moments, God is present and offers more than what can be imagined. Stress and anxiety may be the companions of difficult lives; there are ways to address it. And the readings of the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time speak to this very moment.