The children of Job.
I don’t know if you heard about the miracle that just happened. Did you hear about the miracle that just happened? I don’t mean the super blue blood moon from the lunar eclipse on Wednesday.
No, it was actually Friday night, right beneath our feet. Literally, in our modest Epiphany parish hall right down there.
So there were these children, see, and to be honest they aren’t angels all the time, but Friday night they must have rented some wings somewhere because they brought glad tidings and great joy to all the people, many of whom had just ended a tough week, maybe even days without hope. These angels--they sang their hearts out; they did magic tricks; their fingers danced magically over the keys of a piano and the strings of a harp and a guitar; they told jokes; they danced Irish, ballet and hip-hop. They even did synchronized swimming!
It was miraculous because everyone in that room down there was smiling for hours on end. It was miraculous because for a moment, everyone could forget the bills that they had to pay, the arguments at their jobs or within their families, the worries and fears about their health, the holes in their hearts from a love that has been lost. They called it a Talent Show, but I’d call it a Miracle, and I was so glad to witness its effect on the faces of all the people there. I’d also call it something else: I’d call it church, I’d call it the Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit, I’d call it Love.
Before the miracle took place, as I was walking Murphy the dog in the frigid cold February air, and I got a reminder on my phone that this was the weekend some years ago that I had prayed for a miracle, but didn’t receive it.
Twelve years ago last night I went to bed in the student residence hall where I lived after a wonderful night when one of my students, someone’s good child, had serenaded me and his friends with his guitar. Man, he was so gifted, an amazing musician, and a beloved member of the community. A few hours later I was awakened by a furious knock on my door. That wonderful young man wouldn't wake up.
When it was clear he was dead—after the paramedics had done their job--- I went into the room to pray over him. It was just he and I, and I so much wanted a miracle, I so much wanted to just pray and make him wake up. Walk out of the room into the hallway crowded with crying young men and women, walk out with Alex alive and smiling. So I asked God for a miracle. But that didn’t happen. The whole day, the whole weekend, all of us who lived in that building as a family of 200 students and staff---well, our world was thrown off balance, and we needed a lot of something to get through the hours and the days. There were lots of tears, tons of hugs, and many, many moments of shocked silence when people try to make sense out of the senseless.
Sudden, unexpected death—especially of someone young---takes a toll on you, and makes you wonder if you can count on anything in life. It is our children who embody the great promise that this world can be more than it is. And every newborn child reminds us of our responsibility to protect them, guide them and empower them with love---sdso that they might realize the Kingdom of God for the world.
When I was a little boy, I had bad days and bad weeks just like now. I would think I was a loser, and sometimes I would cry or scream or be grouchy, and it was usually my mama who tried, and often succeeded, in making me feel better. Like all mothers, she had a really good idea about what was bugging me, and she knew what I needed, what would work, to help me get through it. Sometimes it was a tickle and a laugh to get me to smile again, sometimes she would just hold me really really tight and rock me a little bit, sometimes she would sit me down and gently try to explain the situation so I would understand it better. Sometimes, all I needed was a sympathetic whisper of a sigh coming from her. And sometimes, just kisses all over---no words, just kisses all over. Mothers are really good at helping you get through a bad day or a bad week or a bad time. It’s that unconditional love, tempered with a deep understanding of who you are when you are clueless about yourself.
Job’s words of despair in the first reading are powerful. “I have been assigned months of misery…my days come to an end without hope…my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” For Job, life had become horrific. He was a good man, but he lost everything. His livestock was struck by lightning, a wind storm blew down his house and killed his ten children. Imagine trying to pick yourself up and go on after such a devastating loss.
There’s a Job in all of us, moments when it seems as though everything is against us, the world is falling in on us, darkness everywhere, and we can’t find our way out of it. A lost love, failure in school or in our work, financial disaster, our bodies suffering from accident or serious illness, the reality of being alone, now and maybe in the future.
Jesus comes to visit his friends Simon and Andrew and there is a very sick mother-in-law in the house. He goes into the room and prays for her, and there is a miracle, she recovers, and like a good mama, she immediately serves up a meal for them in the house. Jesus dispels the darkness in their lives, and suddenly he finds crowd of Jobs camped at the door outside, looking for a similar fix to their losses and failures. And man, just like downstairs, they got it, they got their miracle, they got dozens and dozens of them, just like here.
Every Sunday many of us come to this place looking for a relief from our worries, our setbacks, our sadness and our losses. It’s a good place to come when we are facing those moments in our lives. As a matter of fact, I think it’s the best place to come. We’re together here, all of us under the same roof, and we share these moments with each other because we know we can’t fix anything by ourselves. Like a child running to his mama looking for words of comfort, a deeply held hug, some kisses on the head, we come and discover that we are not alone in any of this.
The Church is a lot of things, but most especially it is where we can find the love that is underneath the whole universe and the way out of our worst nightmares. I am so grateful for the gift of our brother Pope Francis, who speaks to us almost every day about God’s mercy. And he sees the Church especially as a home of compassionate mercy, not a source of judgment.
Every Sunday we listen to the petitions our brothers and sisters write on little pieces of paper, and I often choke up when I am reading them to everyone. The world—our world---is filled with such difficult challenges, and it is good and important for us to hear what we are all living through, the burdens we bear and the hope we seek to be realized. It is Job speaking and God is in our midst, and our petitions are holy, and they are embraced by the love that is underneath everything.
At the end of the Miracle Show, after a small army of people cleaned up the hall, I was all alone. The walls were still decorated with photo posters of the children who had performed in the show, their bright eyes and beautiful, smiling faces looking right at the camera. These, the priceless treasures of their families, and of all of us. We’re all one family, these are all our children. These children of God will grow up, I thought, and they will bear the burdens that befall all of us who assume our places in God’s world.
I felt the need to pray over each of the photos, and went around the room, asking God to bless them with his love and his peace, to strengthen them with faith that will carry them through all the challenges ahead. And I also asked God to help them recognize that they are the Body of Christ who can make miracles happen for their own children, and for the world.
Shall we pray together today for them as well?