On grappling with life’s questions and mysteries

WE can spend many years of studies, read many books, travel to many places, hear from both simple and erudite people, and learn lessons from the experiences of life, but we can’t have all the answers to many existential questions. We may have unwavering faith in God, but we still grapple with many mysteries of life and faith, such suffering, sickness, death, and eternal life.

Take for example our quandaries on the recent  tragedies in California. What’s with and why another mass shooting that killed thirteen people? Why another firestorm that brought destructions to many homes and interrupted many people’s normal lives? We can blame gun control policies, drought, and climate change, but why do people have to suffer?

As we grow older, we continue  to confront many questions and complexities, and we can never have absolute certainties about many issues affecting us as human beings. No generation will ever have all the answers to life’s struggles. No science and technology will ever bring satisfaction to our queries. It’s because our minds are limited. All that we can do I s to succumb to uncertainties and surrender ourselves to God’s mysterious ways.

The absolute truth in life is that everything will end. We cannot know the day nor the hour, but this world will come to an end too. As the Gospel this Sunday (Mark 13:24-32) states, the time will come when the sun will darken, the moon will stop shining, and the stars will fall from the sky.

With this realization, should we stop living passionately, loving generosity, exploring and studying life and the world? I don’t think so. For the purpose and meaning of life is to give our personal lives away for the sake of others and the glory of God.  It is no wonder that Jesus Christ said that it is in losing one’s life that we gain it. And the greatest wisdom that we can learn from our earthly  journey is that a life spent in service and love is what matters most! 

And so, what shall we do with our continuous wrestling with the questions and mysteries of life? Let’s deal with  them, struggle with them, remain hopeful for each other and the whole humanity, and trust in the almighty power of God over our lives and the universe. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place, but my words will not pass away.”

The key then to accepting and surrendering to life’s pains and mysteries is faith in God’s Word, which he spoke to us in Jesus Christ. God’s words declare that we matter and we belong to Him!

He is with us and we experience a peace stronger than all suffering when we feel His presence in prayer, in deep dialogue with others, in silence, in our interaction with nature, in reading a luminous and profound passage. His words fill us with passion and  strength. His words, “I am with you until the end of time…”  (Matthew 28:20) echo within all that we are and experience.

C.S. Lewis said it right: “God whispers to us in our pleasures; speaks in our consciences; but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world…”

Pope Francis counsels us too with these words: “Do not fear time; nothing is eternal. Do not fear wounds; they make you strong. Do not be afraid to cry; it cleans the soul. Do not fear challenges; they make you agile. Do not fear making mistakes; they make you wise. Do not fear loneliness; God is always with you.”

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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