By Derick Cranston
Failure. It is a bitter fruit we have all tasted. It started with an apple plucked by Adam and Eve and continued with the cyclic failure of the early Israelites in their covenant with Yahweh. It was witnessed by the Apostles in the despair of the crucifixion and the perceived failure of Christ.
A divorced woman reflecting on her failed marriage refers to it as “soul pain.” It is an emotional and spiritual hurt that consumes and overwhelms the spirit. It starts with the sting of rejection that metastasizes and infects the whole outlook of the person. Failure, rejection and pain: the un-holy trinity that leads to despair and despondency.
In a reflection on failure Jesuit author Walter Burghardt writes, “This is dreadfully difficult for a human being to accept. Just because I am trying to do God’s work with every ounce of my being, is no guarantee that my plans will prosper. That because you love God deeply, you will not lose your job, your home, your family, your health … there is no guarantee that because you believe, you will not doubt; because you hope, you will not despond. In this sense there is a Christian frustration, a Christian failure. You do your Christian task as God gives you; the rest, the increase, is in His hands. God still uses what the world calls foolish to shame the wise, still uses what the world calls weak to shame its strength…”
And therein lay the key. God uses the weakness found in failure to humble the strong, the foolishness we experience in defeat to expose the arrogance of the wise. It is the message found in the Beatitudes, when we discover that blessed are the poor for the kingdom of heaven is theirs, and blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Ours is a religion of hope, hope that every tear shall be wiped away and every wrong shall be made right. We are children of the resurrection who look forward to the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom.
There is a light which lies underneath the misery of our failure and rejection. This is the light that Jesus saw in the sick and the lame. It is why he shared meals with sinners and tax collectors and forgave the woman caught in adultery. The light drives out the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome the light. The un-holy trinity of failure, rejection and pain is transformed into faith, hope and love. The darkness of night is at its blackest just before the first rays of light penetrate the horizon. It is the dawn of a new day. The tomb is empty and Christ has risen from the dead. The resurrection is at hand and the kingdom of God is near… let us rejoice and be glad.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at email@example.com.)