Today's first reading begins:
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.
Jeremiah is expressing the feelings of every person who has tried to live a good life, try to do the right thing, and feels shafted. He is expressing the feelings of person who has ever been angry with God.
Here we have to distinguish between one of the seven deadly sins, wrath (ira in Latin) and anger. The deadly sin wrath is the inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. It is directed not at the action but at the person.
Anger by itself is a normal response we have to things we don't understand, to things that frighten us. When something bad happens we get angry because we don't understand and we fear something even worse might happen. No matter how bad something is, our minds can always conjure up something worse.
If we are not careful anger can turn into wrath (ira). After the death of both my parents in a ten month window, I spent a long time angry with God. I fell into the trap of focusing solely on the bad things that had happened in my life, beginning with being born handicapped and then abandoned. As far as I was concerned I had suffered enough. The death of my father was the last straw. I was fed up.
The interesting thing about wrath is that it is self-destructive.
If we have an immature faith we think that if God loves us he would protect us. We think that if God loves us we should only experience the things we think are good.
[Enter today's gospel] After Jesus tells the disciples that he has to suffer he then tells them
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Like the for better or for worse in marriage we hear "take up your cross" and we think of little things. We think "take up your cross" means dealing with a job loss or a back ache. We can't imagine that it can refer to something like the death of a child. We cannot conceive how a loving God allows that.
For each of the seven deadly sins there is an opposite virtue and the virtue that is opposite of wrath is patience. Patience gives me the ability to wait.
Now we see dimly as in a mirror.
Only God knows how all the pieces fit together. Only God knows what is truly good and will lead our perfection. If we believe in enteral life, was the death of my parents or my brother a bad thing.
It's ok to get angry with God. It's ok to yell and scream at God when you don't understand. But if we let that anger turn to wrath, it is truly deadly. Instead, we must trust God, turn our lives over, take up whatever cross, and know that with God's help we can not only carry it, but in carrying it, we are transformed.
Jesus showed us that suffering is an essential part of the human journey. But he also showed us where that suffering leads, if we have the patience and trust to embrace it.
At 54 I see the world very diffrently. I look back now and see the hand of God every step of the way. Each thing that seemed a curse I now see as a blessing. For every Good Friday there has been an Easter. And my experience thus far has taught me one thing of which I am absolutely, positively sure. If I just keep holding on to Jesus, I will not only get through anything, but I will come out of it a better human being one step closer to the saint God has called me to be.