Constantly craving what you do not have is a short cut to misery. In today’s reading (1 Kgs 21:1-16), we hear about King Ahab’s desire for Naboth’s vineyard. Despite having incredible wealth and power, King Ahab is not satisfied. His craving for Naboth’s vineyard causes him great distress and keeps him from experiencing peace to such a degree that he loses sleep and his appetite. This leads him to plot against Naboth and to use all kinds of deceit to seek the desires of his polluted heart.
Sin is that powerful in our lives. In addition to leading us to immoral behaviors, sin prevents us from experiencing the Sabbath rest that God intended. Although suffering does not mean that we have sinned, the root cause of many of our anxieties and fears are the disordered thinking and unbalanced emotions that are a result of our fallen nature. Through the sacraments, regular meditation, and healthy living, God’s grace begins to heal this imbalance little by little.
Suffering will always be an aspect of this fallen world. We cannot avoid it. However, in the midst of our sufferings, we can experience the consolation and strength of the Spirit. Receiving such graces is at the heart of the mystery of the Cross. The Cross stands as a kind of paradox. St. Paul explains that Jesus Christ took on our sins to such an extent the Father “made him sin who did not know sin” (2 Cor 5:21). In this way, Christ experienced the full effects of sin; the disorder and the alienation. However, at the same time he still was God and thus shared in the fullness of the Father’s life. In this way, he shared all the good things of Father in midst of the darkness of sin.
We are called to participate in this victory.
As we grow in intimacy with Christ, we are able to experience this paradox at work in our lives. Though we may endure great suffering, our hearts can rest and be at peace. Though many trials beset us and we may walk through the valley of death, we will fear no evil because our Lord’s presence envelops us. Such a presence does not act as a pain killer that sedates us, but rather the nourishment that helps us to confront sin and death and to see it in all its emptiness and futility. We no longer fear because we have found him who calms all fears.
Such promises are made to those who are faithful. The path is simple enough. Fidelity to prayer, regular reception of the sacraments, and the courage to see one’s self in the light of the Gospel. It may take a lifetime of bumps and mistakes, but to those who persevere such intimacy is a gift that will comfort them in their darkest hour.