by Ken Rolheiser
Everybody hurts sometime

Sometimes as a writer I worry that I paint too rosy a picture for my readers. They do not see me when I pray for strength to face tough sufferings and trials. Everybody hurts sometime.

In times of trouble I fall back on philosophy: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind.” (Percy Bysshe Shelley). But baby it’s cold out there on the toes in January. Then there is, “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.” (Horace Walpole). For years I thought I had made that up until I Googled it.. 

On the other hand, Ernest Hemingway said, "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." Enough. Put away the saccharine and bring out the truth. Everybody hurts sometime.

In his homily “Roots of French Wine” Father Brendan McGuire shares a visit to Napa and a powerful metaphor. His friend the winegrower explained how they use irrigation in California and the roots do not have to go very deeply. The grapes are lush, and the wine is fruity.

In the French wine tradition, no irrigation is used. Roots have to go down ten to fifteen feet through layers of soil to get water. The vines are much stronger and have to work harder. Less fruit is produced but it is richer in minerals and earthy flavors.

McGuire goes on to explain that as faithful disciples, “We need to have our root system deep down into Christ. If it is not deep down into Christ, then we will not be able to endure the fluctuations of what happens in the secular world” 

If we “go deep down into our hearts where Christ will nurture us with the water of life that he gives, McGuire says, then “your fruit will be manifold; it will be thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold.”

McGuire goes on to explain the need to keep coming to church to get the strength to persevere in times of trial. Our vines need to be strong to produce great fruit. We need to work hard to have the strength for the darker times in our lives.

To be a disciple is not for the feint hearted. Life involves suffering and ultimately, death. But our strength is in Christ. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). 

And for the everyday sufferings that at times will get us down, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

As in the wine metaphor above, St Paul tells us that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

We have the added benefit of being nourished by the best wine and bread, namely the body and blood of Christ. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). His Word and His presence sustain us as well. Can you name any place where God is not?

And that, dear reader is my secret strength. Mass as often as possible, even weekdays, and daily feeding on the Word of God. I am a practicing Catholic, and I will go on practicing until I get it right!

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