Father Robert Barron released an essay this morning on Stephen Colbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Cardinal Newman. The point is how we address misfortune, punishment, or however we prefer to term the obstacles in life. In the original interview Fr Barron cited, Mr Colbert reflected on the tragic deaths of his father and two brothers during his childhood:
… he told the interviewer how, through the ministrations of his mother, he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it: “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was ten; that was quite an explosion…It’s that I love the thing that I wish most had not happened.” Flummoxed, his interlocutor asked him to elaborate on the paradox. Without missing a beat, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien: “What punishments of God are not gifts?” What a wonderful sermon on the salvific quality of suffering! And it was delivered, not by a priest or bishop or evangelist, but by a comedian about to take over one of the most popular television programs on late night.
I have to confess I’m not quite prepared to love such events. Even considering the words of the great author, perhaps misfortune is a “gift” in some way. Not everybody thinks this way. And some very holy people have resisted the acceptance of bad things.
I’m more inclined to a personal resignation, and to probe such events for new opportunities. I’m not quite ready to accept them as gifts or incidents to love. Sometimes, accidents have no discernible connection with consequences for sinful occurrences. “acts of God,” they are termed. But I see nothing of God in them.
Sometimes when events go against me, I have nobody but myself to blame for the outcome. That is a demanding thing few of us ever master: owning up to our mistakes and recognizing our slumber is in a bed of our own manufacture.
Often enough, innocent people are harmed by the sins and omissions of others. These I find difficult to accept as “gifts.” Too easily do some aggressors get a pass in this life.
But what do you think? When is the time for letting go? When is it right to seek the gift buried in misfortune?