Today, Father Jacob, one of the priests in our parish, gave an exceptional homily (sermon). Father Jacob is from India and I usually can’t understand his accent so I tend to check out a bit, but today was different. Today, the message was very clear. He talked about the Bible story with Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac, but then God saved his son at the last minute. It is the classic test of faith story.
He followed it up with a story of a young couple who had a baby girl. However, the girl soon developed medical problems and passed away. The couple was overwhelmed with grief. They retreated from all family and friends and could not move forward. Then one night, the mother had a dream. She dreamt she went to Heaven and saw thousands of children, all carrying lighted candles and walking towards Jesus. The mother spotted her daughter in the line but her daughter’s candle was not lit. She ran over and hugged her daughter, then asked, ‘my child, why isn’t your candle lit?’ The daughter said, ‘mommy, they have relighted it, but your tears kept putting it out.’
The overall message is that there is a reason for things. It’s not all meaningless. We’re entrusted to make some decisions and we have to trust that they will be the right ones, but if they aren’t we’ve done the best we could and we will be forgiven for making the wrong decisions. In the grief counseling I’ve been trained on, one of the key steps to help people to move forward is understanding that their loved one who has passed, would not want them to continue suffering in their grief for the remainder of their lives.
It doesn’t mean to forget about those we’ve lost, but to honor their loss, to always remember them and to appreciate the time we had – to remember the lessons they gave us and maybe to point us to serve in other ways. Maybe their loss teaches us not to take the present for granted, or to extend grace to others, even when they don’t seem to deserve it. We are all dealing with our own set of problems in life and we never can truly know another’s pain or what they are going through. We could all be better off with a little more grace in our lives.
While no one wants to experience this kind of tragedy, or any other loss for that matter, it may be that the loss points us to a different path in life or to serve others in a meaningful or different way. Or it may be that their loss causes us to change our perspectives, or beliefs or our behaviors in some way that prepares us to better handle another challenge in life that we, or others we know, may experience. We may not even know why we’ve been presented with certain challenges in our lives. We may not know until later in our life, or we may know right away. We may never know. We may just have to have faith that it served a purpose. The only meaning things have is the meaning we give to them, and it is more meaningful to use what we’ve experienced to help others, so that the loss would not be without meaning.
Father Jacob ended his homily by saying: When God solves your problems, you have faith in Him. When God does not solve your problems, He has faith in you.