Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr
Karl Marx famously wrote that religion is the opiate of the people: the heart of a heartless world. And indeed, driving around poorer parts of our country one often finds a saloon on one corner, and a church on another. Religion can be used as a crutch to help people through unbearable conditions. Perhaps this is necessary and good. Alas, it has all too often been used by the rich and powerful as a way to assure that conditions of brutal injustice are not changed.
But even under the best of conditions, life is hard – for everyone. In today’s readings, we find Tobit begging God for death: that is a common prayer in the Bible. Job and Jeremiah both curse the days of their births, and wish they had never been born. And Sarah, who is to marry Tobit’s son Tobiah, has suffered so badly that she simply plans to hang herself.
God hears their prayers and answers them, but not before their sufferings had led them to the brink of self-destruction. True religion was not a palliative to their sufferings, which were unbearable. Rather, in God’s wisdom and plan, relief did come to them – but only after unspeakable agony, in His good time and His way.
We live in a feel-good culture, and are sorely tempted to a feel-good religion. We Catholics proclaim the Crucified Lord at the center of our religious life. He is no opiate, but rather lord and companion who goes ahead of us bearing the unbearable trials of our lives. We are not laughing clowns nor drugged mannequins: we are children of God, carrying our Crosses in union with His beloved Son. But into glory!