A reflection by Fr. Frank Hegel, SFM, on Lamentations 3:12-26 and Matthew 11:25-30
Some of you may know the saying that goes somewhat like this: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Generally, this means that when something unpleasant or sour happens to you, turn it around by making something good out of it. If you have ever made lemonade, you know that after squeezing the lemon, one puts the peel into the lemonade for extra flavor.
There are many distasteful events which come into our lives. We try to make sense of it all. We make lemonade by getting advice and looking for “silver linings,” trying to cut through the bitterness of the lemon. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as we would like, and the bitter taste of lemon remains.
We begin this week celebrating all those whom we have loved and lost. They have passed through our lives and then passed on. We celebrate the sweet flavour of the blessings they have been and continue to be for us. But our celebration also recognizes that there is also the peel or pain of not having them around any more. “They are in the hand of God,” we say. But we long to have them close at hand, hand in hand with us.
This year as we celebrate the feast of All Souls, some of us will undoubtedly not taste the sweet lemonade because the peel has overpowered the drink. They will be the ones who can identify with the author of the Book of Lamentations. Some will even have such a bitter taste that they forget what the good life is like – even possibly say that God is a lost cause. They have hit rock bottom. If you’ve ever hit the bottom, you know exactly how the author of Lamentations feels.
But the passage from the Book of Lamentations does not end in remembering the bitterness. Rather, it closes by remembering the faithfulness of God’s love and mercy – that his love and mercy are without end. It is in this God that the writer puts his hope. We too are encouraged to do the same.
Let us pay special attention to the words of the Preface for today’s mass. It’s a beautiful summary of the Pascal Mystery which includes the movement of death in order to, reach a new life. The preface says, in part, the following: “In Him who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.”
Our Gospel reading today also gives us hope. In the narrative, Jesus reminds us that if we are tired, worn out, burnt out or overtaxed we should go to him. He is saying to us: “Come away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy on you. Trust me and learn how to live freely and lightly. Just try my lemonade. You’ll find it sweet and not bitter.”