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Heartbreak

As the First Reading describes it, the enemies of the Jews smash Jerusalem. The walls of the city are torn down. The Temple of God is burned up, and all its holy things are destroyed. And the people are taken captive to Babylon. Their country, their customs, their language, their cult, their Temple—it’s all lost.

In the Psalm, there is a poignant picture of the people’s heartbreak over this destruction of their home. The enemies who had wrecked Jerusalem want the Jews to sing Hebrew songs for them. “How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land?” the captive people say to themselves in their grief.

Heartbreak by us, by Christ, is for life not for death.
The Second Reading declares that God is rich in mercy and great in love. So why doesn’t God protect his people from the heartbreak that his people had when Jerusalem was destroyed?

The answer to the question lies in the Readings. 

God doesn’t want to destroy people and God doesn’t allow suffering for the sake of  hurting people either. Instead God is looking for a remedy, as the First Reading implies. God is willing to use desperate measures, even the heartbreak of his people, to save them. 

And not only that, but God is willing to use his own suffering too. As the Gospel Reading says, God gave his beloved Son to save the world. Christ was betrayed by his disciple, shamed in front of his family and friends, mocked by his community, condemned by the legal authorities, publicly flogged, and put to death by crucifixion. Any one of these things is enough for heartbreak, isn’t it? And so, in the incarnate Christ, God uses his own great suffering as the final remedy to bring people from death into life, when all other remedies have been tried and failed. 

Heartbreak by us, by Christ, is for life not for death.

And here is what else we need to see. Jerusalem was rebuilt and the Temple was restored, as the First Reading explains. Christ’s death was followed by his resurrection. In each of these cases, heartbreak was turned into joy. 

And so heartbreak is not the last word. Elsewhere (Ps 37:3-4) the Psalmist says, “Put your trust in the Lord, … and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When the story is God’s, heartbreak is not the end of the story. Joy in finding your heart’s desire in God is.

Eleonore Stump
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go http://www.ltp.org