When We Feel Abandoned by God
May 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 18:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:16-20)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord, in explaining to His disciples what He means by "In a little while you will not see Me and then in a little while you will see Me again," tells them they will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. They will grieve, but their grief will turn to joy. That is the pattern we have to understand. Of course, we know, as we look back at it, that He was telling them He was going to be crucified and buried and they would not see Him; then on the third day, He would rise from the dead and they would see Him again.
For us, now, it is to be able to look at the pattern and know that the way the Lord is going to work in our lives is in a similar manner. He walks along with us, just as He did with the disciples, and then as we grow in the spiritual life, there are times where the Lord will seem to no longer be there. We will look for Him and we will not be able to find Him internally. We will be left in kind of a chaotic state. The Lord will seem to have abandoned us, to have disappeared from within, but that is to test the faith; it is to purify and to strengthen us. As the Lord purifies things, we are able to say "yes".
When we look at it, we have to understand it is not saying "yes" as the apostles did at that point, because they did not say "yes" with faith when the Lord died. The only one who did was our Blessed Lady, and so it is to say "yes" with her: "Yes, I believe the Lord is still here, even though it feels like I have been abandoned, even though I am grieving in the depths of my heart because I cannot find the Lord; yet, I believe He is there. I know He loves me. I know that He is going to be back, that He is going to give me the grace I need, that He is going to fill my soul with His love." All those things we need to be able to hang onto because those are the promises He made and we know that that is there. But in the midst of our grief, the doubts creep in very quickly. We begin to wonder and we begin to doubt. We think that all the things we believed were for naught, and yet that faith stills needs to be there to keep saying, "I believe."
When we are able to survive that time, the Lord will then show Himself to us once again and we will be filled with joy. It is that joy He spoke of in the Gospel when He said, "No one will be able to take it from you," because it will truly be His joy. It will fill our hearts when we have been purified. It is not the joy of being able to know Him from a distance, which is indeed a great joy in itself, but it is the joy that is Godís own joy that fills our hearts when we are completely in union with Him, when we are perfected. It is a joy that cannot be removed by anything or anyone.
That is the way we can understand these words for ourselves. We grieve in the midst of our afflictions and of our purifications and of our seeming abandonment, but that lasts for only a little while, and then we will be filled with joy. Even if we look at it with regard to our salvation, the world rejoices now. Look around, they are all rejoicing out there. They think this is wonderful, but those are the ones who, without conversion, will grieve for eternity. Those who are followers of Christ grieve at what they see in the world, but that grief, too, will be turned to joy when we see the Lord face to face. Our grief will be turned, then, to eternal joy.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.