How to Groan as a Catholic Christian

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After a deep groan he healed him.

After a deep groan he healed him.

The first time I heard “It is what it is,” I was taken aback. A recently homily at Mass helped me understand why. The homily focused on Jesus’ groaning.

“Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep groan said to the deaf and mute man,”Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). (Mark 7:3).

Father Allen reminded us that Jesus’ groan and follow-up action show how much he desires to heal us and the world around us. St. Paul tells us that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time awaiting redemption (Rm. 8:22) Jesus didn’t just take a look at what was going on and say “It is what it is.” This form of stoicism can easily creep into our vocabulary when we feel powerless to change things. Instead of abdicating responsibility with a shrug of the shoulder, we can choose a creative Catholic response. A deep inner groan when we encounter the imperfection and sin in our world can lead us to Christian action.

Christian action begins with prayer and presence. N. T. Wright reminds us that every clause of the Lord’s Prayer resonates with Jesus’ announcement that God’s kingdom is breaking into the story of Israel and the world, opening up God’s long-promised new world and summoning people to share it. “Thy kingdom come!”

Our response to help bring about the Kingdom of God can be waylaid by consumerism, a mass-mediated culture, technology, politics and economics – all things that promise progress. It seems we can purchase or vote for what is missing to cure the world and our ills. Salvation is offered and mediated through a communication culture offering a belief system that can serve human needs instantly. Our human nature is characterized by restless yearning for fulfillment. Characteristics of our culture are speed and immediacy, planned obsolescence, subjectivism and relativism that encourage the “right” to choose beliefs and behaviors. Deeper questions about human nature can be ignored: our hunger for communion, the drive toward transcendence and our desire for ultimate meaning. Let us groan with Jesus for a culture that is losing sight of the divine mystery in the other. The ‘cultivation’ of human embryos to benefit other human beings, and the rise of human trafficking are two examples of man as object to himself. Our relationship to God and other human beings cannot be separated from each other.

Theologian Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt wrote that the “man of modernity has now eroded beyond recognition. So if the Church is to speak about humanity, it must not appeal to that face now washed away, but to the face of Christ.”

Jesus shows us who we are. He is the path of life, the path toward happiness (John 14:6). Jesus gives himself to us in Eucharistic communion for a complete reshaping of our life. We become Eucharist bread broken and shared for the life of the world when we offer ourselves with Jesus. Eucharist cries out to us for a commitment in a love providing, not bread alone, but the Bread of Life, so that people may see Jesus as the Word of God in who is contained the meaning of the world – its truth.[1] Eucharist gathers us in Christ so that we are sent as Christ.

Inner groans about the state of things lead us to acknowledge the "not yet" for pray and action in the "already" of God's Kingdom.

Inner groans about the state of things lead us to acknowledge the “not yet” for prayer and action in the “already” of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus’ actions, words, and sufferings, break the power of that alienation which lies so heavily on human life and leads us out of individualism into the communion of saints, into communion with God the locus of true life.[2]

No longer “it is what it is,” Paul says, “now it is Christ lives in me.” The Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groans. (Rm. 8:26) and we, gifted with the first fruits of the Spirit, groan as we eagerly await our redemption (Rm. 8:21-22).

We live in the already and not yet of God’s Kingdom. This leads me to pray the Beatitudes in a whole new way. At the heart of Jesus’ preaching the Beatitudes are the promises related to our groaning and deep sighs for the Kingdom of God to come in its fullness. The Beatitudes “shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations.” [3]

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven.” Mt. 5: 3-12

“Come, Lord Jesus!” Rev. 22:20

“God himself is groaning within the heart of the world, because God himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate with the pain of the world.” N.T. Wright; Simply Christian

[1]  Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987) 337.

[2] Introduction to Christianity pgs 35, 151, 91

[3] In the Cathechism of the Catholic Church n. 1717

 

Copyright 2015 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp.
Photos:

“Jezus in de hof van Olijven” by Anonymous, Southern Netherlands – Ophelia2. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Prayer at Mepkin Abbey” photo by Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp; All Rights Reserved.

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About Author

A Daughter of St. Paul for 40 years Sr. Margaret continues to pursue new ways to proclaim the Gospel: sharing the Pauline Charism with the laity, writing books (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross; Prayers for the New Evangelization), & through direct evangelization. She is available for workshops on the Vocation & Mission of the Laity, Media Literacy, and The New Evangelization. [email protected]

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