Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings

Zec 9:9-10
Rom 8:9
Mt 11:25

Reflection

In our world today, it can often feel like there is no reprieve from the pain and suffering we all must endure. A heart-wrenching reality for many people with which I struggle to reconcile is cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Cancer has had an enormous impact on my life and on the lives of my friends and family. The pain, anger, and sadness suffered by my loved ones seems so unrelenting at times that I feel that I have no other choice but to ask God why he allows such pain to occur. And although I wish I had a perfect answer, I do not. But I have found that it is in those moments of pain and suffering, I have also found hope and a renewed faith. Last fall, after months of planning and preparing, I co-coordinated the First Year Student Retreat, a weekend retreat for students about a month into their first semester of college that allows them to reflect on their college experience thus far. Leading up to the retreat, I was confident in our leaders and excited to meet the new students, but terrified that we had forgotten something or that something would go wrong. I wanted it to be perfect: for every person to have a perfect and fulfilling experience. Anything less would have seemed like a failure to me. Is that enough pressure to put on myself and on everyone else involved? Maybe. I tried to control my worries as we boarded the buses, arrived at the retreat site, and began the retreat, but I still kept myself from really being in the moment and enjoying the experience that I was helping to create.

It was not until we did an activity we called the “Circle Activity” that I began to appreciate all the beautiful things that had been happening around me. The group was given a series of prompts about their lives and their college experiences. If a prompt is true for an individual, they can choose to move into the circle. As we participated in this activity, the barriers between us began to fall away. It was in our vulnerability not only that I found peace with our preparation for the retreat and its inevitable imperfection, but also the beautiful friendships that we had just created. The community that we had just forged gave me reassurance for the struggles that I had endured and hope that this community would support its members during future moments of pain.

I do not know the answers and although I wish I could control the future, I will not be able to make it perfect. But maybe we are not meant to understand. Maybe we are just meant to have faith, and have faith trust Jesus’ words from today’s gospel:

            “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.”

 

-Alex Annen