This week in the New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd turned her column over to Father Kevin O’Neil, a Catholic priest, who has spent much time ministering to the dying and consoling the grieving. Father O'Neil writes that early in his career he used to ask God "Why?" when faced with death: why would a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God cause pain and suffering? He goes on to ask, "How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing?"
And, with his 30 years of experience, Father O'Neil answers his own questions:
We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not...Faith is lived in family and community, and God is experienced in family and community. We need one another to be God’s presence…An unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present.
Whether you are a Catholic or not, whether you believe in God or not, these words might be meaningful to you. They can remind us that in death and in grief the support of the people we love is a powerful healer.