Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance

 

Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan

 

Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

The “Sticky Fingers of Divine Providence” – A Reflection for the Fourth Week of Lent

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

[2 Chr 36:15-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Jn 3:14-21]

“Gutsy” might best describe Nicodemus:  gutsy, but not stupid. It seems he had to meet with Jesus, but he took care to come in the dark so fewer people would see—although, as part of a small population, he certainly knew that even the night has eyes and word travels fast.

So his status as a respected religious leader might have been jeopardized by his visit to a questionable “wonder worker.”  Nevertheless, he went, impelled by a hunger to understand.

Cyrus, too, seems daring. Yes, he may have wanted to deport a troublesome ethnic group, but they were also one of his main sources of labor (why does this sound familiar?), and their exodus left the country in significant need of workers.  Credit—or blame?—is attributed to God for inspiring Cyrus’ decree.

In our time, God gets less credit or blame for the decisions of humans.  Only when we look back from some decades’ distance do we perceive the sticky fingerprints of divine providence and mutter to ourselves, “So that’s where God was going,” or “So that’s why that evil was allowed to happen.”

Hands_of_God_and_Adam

We need to learn and relearn, all through the span of our days, that life can be drawn even from darkest death.  We need to be patient, giving God time to draw dazzling good out of deep evil.

–What “deep evil” do you see—in our world or in yourself—that you are hoping God can heal?

–How might your patient waiting and working toward that healing be in itself a work of God?

–Do you see any sticky fingerprints as you look back?

The “Sticky Fingers of Divine Providence” – A Refection for the Fourth Week of Lent

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

[2 Chr 36:15-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Jn 3:14-21]

“Gutsy” might best describe Nicodemus:  gutsy, but not stupid. It seems he had to meet with Jesus, but he took care to come in the dark so fewer people would see—although, as part of a small population, he certainly knew that even the night has eyes and word travels fast.

So his status as a respected religious leader might have been jeopardized by his visit to a questionable “wonder worker.”  Nevertheless, he went, impelled by a hunger to understand.

Cyrus, too, seems daring. Yes, he may have wanted to deport a troublesome ethnic group, but they were also one of his main sources of labor (why does this sound familiar?), and their exodus left the country in significant need of workers.  Credit—or blame?—is attributed to God for inspiring Cyrus’ decree.

In our time, God gets less credit or blame for the decisions of humans.  Only when we look back from some decades’ distance do we perceive the sticky fingerprints of divine providence and mutter to ourselves, “So that’s where God was going,” or “So that’s why that evil was allowed to happen.”

We need to learn and relearn, all through the span of our days, that life can be drawn even from darkest death.  We need to be patient, giving God time to draw dazzling good out of deep evil.

–What “deep evil” do you see—in our world or in yourself—that you are hoping God can heal?

–How might your patient waiting and working toward that healing be in itself a work of God?

–Do you see any sticky fingerprints as you look back?

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 4 Prayer and Reflection

Day 4: Changed by the Lord’s victory over evil.
Scripture

Exodus 23:1-9, Do not follow the majority in wrongdoing.
Psalm 1, Happy are those whose delight is in the law of the Lord.
Romans 12:17-2, Overcome evil with good.
Matthew 4:1-11, Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.
Meditation
In Jesus we learn what “victory” really means, that is, happiness with one another in God’s love through His overcoming of all that keeps us apart. In Jesus we can share in a new life which calls us to struggle against what is wrong in our world with renewed confidence and with a delight in what is good.
The words from Exodus give a categorical warning against engaging in wrongdoing and injustice. The attitude of the majority must not in any way provide an excuse. Nothing entitles a person to do wrong.
Psalm 1 draws attention not only to the need to observe the commandments, but especially to the joyful fruits of doing so. A person who loves the law of the Lord above all else is called happy and blessed.
In Paul’s admonitions we find encouragement to “overcome evil with good.” Only good can interrupt the endless spiral of hatred and the desire for revenge. He calls peace with others and understands our continuous struggle against our instincts to harm those who hurt us.
Matthew describes the Son of God’s struggle against Satan. Jesus’ victory over the temptations in the desert are fulfilled in His obedience to the Father, which leads Him to the Cross. His resurrection confirms that God’s goodness ultimately wins: love overcomes death. His presence calls Christians to act together in the cause of goodness. The scandal is that because of our divisions we cannot be strong enough to fight against the evils of our time. United in Christ, we are called to share in His mission of bringing hope to the places of injustice, hatred, and despair.

This day takes us deeper into the struggles against evil. Victory in Christ is an overcoming of all that damages God’s creation, and keeps us apart from one another. In Jesus we are called to share in this new life, struggling with him against what is wrong in our world, with renewed confidence and with a delight in what is good. In our divisions we cannot be strong enough to overcome evil in our times.

For Your Reflection

  1. Where do we see evil in our own lives?
  2. In what way can our faith in Christ help us to overcome evil and the Evil One?
  3. What can we learn from situations in our community where division has given way to reconciliation?

Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for your victory over evil and division. We praise you for your sacrifice and your resurrection that conquer death. Help us in our everyday struggle against all adversity. May the Holy Spirit give us strength and wisdom so that, following you, we may overcome evil with good, and division with reconciliation. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute