I held it together pretty well until the recessional hymn.
Sitting in Mass, I did my darnedest to pray for the mothers who were grieving for their girls. One laid to rest after she suffered a horrible death at the hands of a man she thought was an Uber driver and another clinging to life in a burn unit.
And Caroline. Sweet darling girl with the smile that warmed your heart. This one, the child of one of our sisters in the Faith Moves Mountains Community, a 20-year-old whose life was cut short after an accident over the weekend.
I was focused in prayer, not distracted as I usually am by the woman sitting next to me who complains about the heat and as she fans herself with the bulletin. Nor did the babies crying in tandem pull my heart away from the questions I was asking God. I was on a mission and needed to know.
Why that family?
Each question rising like incense toward heaven. Each met with an inner silence. No answer— only more questions. I wanted to make sense of what happened. I looked for reasons and rationale. I searched in vain for something that I could say that would take away the unbearable pain. I wanted to console these families. Sadly, only platitudes and emptiness rang out as more questions popped into my mind. No answers.
Why these girls who were on the cusp of independence and young adulthood?
Why these beautiful girls?
Then my questions got more pointed.
Why not take the evil people?
Why not take the ones who are suffering after long illnesses and are ready to go home.
Why not allow the healthy, vibrant ones to stay here with us, be healthy, enjoy weddings and baby showers?
As I looked at the crucifix hanging over the altar, my thoughts shifted. In my spirit, I knew I was not alone in my pain. The Gospel reminded me of the time Jesus wept with his friends Mary and Martha at Lazarus’s tomb. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the pain endured by Mary as she stood watching her innocent child bound by love to the wood of the cross.
I knew that I am not the first one to ask any of these questions. Both Mary and Martha pointed out, “Lord, if You had been here” this would not have happened.(John 11:21, 32) Because, isn’t that how it feels? When we are grieving we feel like Jesus has left us alone and is not coming back.
After receiving the Eucharist, I professed my belief in the True Presence of our Savior despite my confusion. Despite my feelings to the contrary, I reminded myself that He is still with us and His promises stand true today as they have since the dawn of creation.
But, it was only as I began to sing that my heart could no longer contain my grief. When the familiar tune and words poured from my mouth, tears and mascara rolled down my cheeks. The lyrics contained the answer to my questions. He was there. He is here.
As I sung, I remembered Jesus is the Bread of Life. He nourishes us, we are invited to life with Him and in Him. As Jesus tells Martha the Gospel of John, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) What hope. What feels for us like the end is really only the beginning. The beginning of eternal life for those we love.
We are connected to Christ with an unbreakable bond in Baptism. Through His Holy Spirit we are also bound to each other in the Body of Christ. These bonds transcend space and time. This is why we pray to Jesus. And why we must intercede for each other.
When there are more questions than answers, call out to your friend Jesus and ask for His help.
Tell Him: Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.
Sisters, we must stand firm together. Do not allow fear or doubt to isolate you. Reach out. Talk. Pray. Listen. Follow where the Spirit is leading you. Remind others of the hope of the resurrection.
Do not wait until you have it all figured out before you take the next step toward Jesus and your sisters.
If you know someone is facing a difficult part of their journey, unite your suffering to theirs in prayer.
If you are struggling— Reach out to your sisters in Christ, text, and ask for their prayers. Some of the hardest times in my life were bearable because of the ardent petitions of fellow prayer warriors. In the moments of my deepest despair when I could not pray for myself I found the greatest Peace when I saw a text with “prayer hands” emoji come through. What seemed simple to one person, is a lifeline to someone else.
As you walk through this day, I pray that you ask the hard questions and have faith that Jesus is present even in the situations which make no sense. Hold fast to the hope of heaven and the promise of eternal life spent in the embrace of the merciful, loving Jesus.