Monday, June 20, 2011

"O death! Where is Your Sting?"

This past Friday, as I sat in church listening to St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, these words hit me like a sledgehammer:

"Five times at the hands of the Jews I received 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, danger from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through sleepless nights, through hunger and thirsts, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches."

After a reading like this one can't help but reflect on St. Paul's great courage and his zeal for spreading the Gospel. But do you know what really struck me the most outside of the hardships that St. Paul underwent?
It was the fact that nothing, and I mean nothing can destroy us nor take our life without the express permission of God. St. Paul lived through each and every one of these horrors because God allowed it to be so. Only He has the ultimate power over life and death. Death cannot claim someone before their time. Some may ask:

Well, what about those who never make it out of the wombs of their mothers? Or children who die young? How about those whose lives are taken by another? Those killed by drunk drivers?

Here we get into the area of God's permitting will which differs from his perfect will. This "permitting will" entered after the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. This may be an area that is very difficult for us to understand but God does not ask us to understand....He asks us to trust. To trust that good will be brought out of even the greatest evil.

I have a very good friend who lost her teenage son at the hands of a drunk driver. One day, a few years after this tragic lost, she said to me, "Mary, I have to tell you, had my son not died when he did, I have reason to believe that his soul may have been lost had he stayed on earth." This woman had a beautiful mystical experience regarding the salvation of her son's soul and, what she had previously thought to be "the unkindness of Our Lord",  changed instantly after a small  glimpse of a mercy so great and a God so good that He allowed this young man to die early in order to save his soul. She still grieved but she no longer questioned.

St. Paul's love for the Lord was so great that he understood that death would come when it was time to go, no sooner no later. All the apostles understood this, also. Though most of their deaths came in the form of martyrdom, God brought such immense good out of each of their lives and deaths that we are still reaping its benefits thousands of years later.

Every single person on this earth has a mission and I, for one, believe that even those "little ones" who never got the chance to take a breath here on earth fulfilled the mission they were sent for. God thinks in terms of quality not quantity - the souls of these "little ones" may have been so beautiful already that stepping foot on this earth may have not even been necessary.

Many years ago, I remember, after suffering from years of infertility, finally seeing that beautiful plus sign on a home pregnancy test. I joyously made an appointment with my doctor....only to find out after further testing that it was an ectopic pregnancy. I remember crying and crying for days on end, no one could console me.  I realized that, though this baby was in the wrong place, a baby it was, soul and all, and though he or she wouldn't live that this child had a purpose, nonetheless. Oddly enough, this ectopic pregnancy paved the way for my daughter to be born. Somehow, after years of doctors not being able to get dye through my tubes, something happened. Not only did God prevent my tube from bursting, after the HCG numbers bottomed out signifying the baby's death, somehow the doctor was suddenly able to get the dye through the very tube that had previously contained the ectopic pregnancy while the other tube remained completely blocked as usual. My belief is that this pregnancy stretched the tube in the area where it was blocked and when the dye was pushed through, this area was "unblocked" and enabled me to conceive my daughter, Michaela.

I cannot prove this of course, but I believe it anyway. What else could explain it? God can bring great good, even out of circumstances which we cannot understand with our limited perspective here on earth.

"I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered."   Job 42:2


  1. I must really need to hear this message right now, Mary because I have been working on being less resentful about things where I feel taken advantage of and things of that nature. I am trying to see God's hand in every part of my life and remember his permissive will. I think if I trust His will more and mine less knowing that He will bring good out of even minor injustices, I will regain Christ's peace and not be so flustered. I will try to remember that passage from our patron.
    Great post-thanks and God bless!

  2. His permissive will can be very hard to understand and I've been working on focussing on acceptance too, knowing that trusting Him is key in this area. Thanks for commenting :)

  3. Whatever happens, however bad, God is still in control. And we should Praise Him.

    We are not praising Him because something has gone wrong in our lives; but because He is in control. And by Praising Him we somehow open a channel for Him to turn a bad situation into good. For us, or others around us and around the situation.

    As humans, we always see things from our human perspective. God sees things from His perspective and they always follow His will.

    God bless.

  4. Victor,
    You have expressed beautifuuly in your comment why we should always trust and praise the Lord. Thank you!

  5. Beautifully, that is. A few typing lessons wouldn't hurt me;)

  6. As I read this the words "more of YOU and less of me".

    Beautiful post Mary,there is so much here that speaks to me, especially when you say "Every single person on this earth has a mission...". this is so true when you think we were made in HIS image and likeness.

    Thank you!

  7. Oh, I didn't finish my sentence! It should have said "As I read this the words "more of YOU and less of me" come to mind ;) ........

  8. What a beautiful story, Mary. If we only look at the apparent tragedies with earthly lives we will be miserable. But the eyes of faith and the heart of trust allow us to rest peacefully in His hands.

  9. DG,
    Speaking of "in His image and likeness" - this one statement in itself always makes me think of the immense dignity of the human person. I imagine we all want more of Him and less of ourselves and as we become more like Him our mission on earth becomes more obvious to us. Thanks DG!

  10. Barb,
    Thank you:) As I grow older it becomes a bit easier to see with the eyes of faith and trust Him more. When I was younger I really struggled in this area. Not that I don't still struggle at times (like your dirty toddler analogy) but it's far less than before and the less we struggle the easier it is for Him to clean us. I really loved that post, Barb!

  11. You said what I always tell people. God always brings good out of bad. I believe that because I too have seen it in my own life. Ditto what Victor said.