I have always understood Jesus’ words in today’s gospel as a reference to what will happen at the end of time. Reflecting on them today, however, I think of them as being far more immediate. We are all faced with events and situations in life that make us think it is the end of our world. Disasters and crises like the typhoon in the Philippines, a marriage gone bad, a loved one facing serious disease and possible death; these are examples of hardships that literally change our world and lives.

Times such as these are miserable and painful. We feel abandoned and lost. We wonder which end is up. We even ask ourselves how God could possibly allow such terrible things to happen. We are most vulnerable and our wounds are open for all to see. This is exactly why Jesus speaks to us about these times in our lives.

Jesus assures us of his constant presence. He encourages us to persevere. It is even possible that our deepest experience of God’s love comes to us through these experiences.

In the Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius advises us not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty or honor rather than dishonor. Rather we ought to only seek that which brings us closer to God. In fact, sickness and poverty and dishonor all have the potential to bring us closer to the loving embrace of God.

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits