July 23, 2023; Romans 8:26-27; 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our lives and our world are not as we want them to be. They are not how God wants them to be either. There might be someone in your family whose life is compromised, a son or daughter dealing with an addiction or a brother or sister struck with a serious disease. You do not want their lives to be as they are. Neither does God. Yet their struggles continue. There are so many things in our world that are contrary to God’s will, disregard for life in a mother’s womb, the violence of modern warfare, corruption among our political leaders, and a general dismissal of the needs of the poor. Neither God nor we want these evils in our world. But they remain.
The inability to remove the evils that surround us demoralizes us. We cannot explain why God does not act to eliminate evil or why our actions to do so are so often ineffective. God’s ways are often to us a mystery, and at times we become so confused that it is not even clear how we should pray or what we should ask for. We become paralyzed by our weakness.
Saint Paul knows of such weakness and addresses it in today’s Second Reading. He says that when we are overcome by weakness, the Spirit of God comes to us and groans with us in frustration. When we do not know how to pray, the Spirit of God prays for us. Paul wants us to know that although we cannot explain why God does not eliminate evil, we need to believe that God understands our frustration about evil and groans with us.
The Spirit does not always dispel our doubts or take away our pain. What the Spirit does is more surprising and more intimate. God’s Spirit identifies with our broken spirit and begins to moan, echoing our aimless cries and carrying them to the heart of God. Because the Spirit is God’s Spirit, our confused anguish is transfigured and becomes acceptable to God. Our doubt and our pain become something holy. The broken pieces of our lives are taken up by the voice of the Spirit who is able to transform our groaning into an appeal and our pain into a prayer.