On Ills That Linger

Homeward Bound

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That which holds the promise: “The Empty Tomb” by Bob Baker (Source)

It is a frustrating revelation for both hobbits and humans. The Ring has been destroyed; the Tomb has been found empty. Darkness has faltered, and good has triumphed. Why then do the ills of the world linger? After witnessing the defeat of Sauron and sin, why is the Shire in turmoil, and our own lands still suffering? Has the Easter promise deceived us? Isn’t the story nearing its happy end?

Our tale may be nearing its conclusion, but many pages remain to be written, and chapters to unfold. For though the King has reclaimed his throne both in Middle-earth and on Earth, nevertheless ills linger. Some, like Butterbur, have not yet heard of the great feats accomplished, the great victories won, the great promises restored, and so have not changed their perspective and ways. Some, like the Saruman and the swarthy men of the North, have rejected the rule of the King and have sought to flee from him, causing discord and hurt along the way. And some, like Frodo, carry the scars of ills once suffered, wounds that do not fully heal, remembrances of a darkness that has only left its offspring in the mind. A new age has dawned, but it remains an age of the world.

This revelation can dishearten our Lenten souls still weary from our journey to the mountain, yet we must take comfort: even if the battles still rage, we know the results to come. What evils still exist are lesser than the ones that have already been defeated. The great menace of Sauron has been dispersed; Hell has been harrowed, and the captives of the shadow lands have been freed. The derivatives of death may still harass, but their captain has been slayed. One day the King shall make his way up into our lands and hearts and order them, and drive the evil things into the wilderness.

Until that time, we have been given responsibility over the Shire. Though the ills that linger may not have the same magnitude as those already defeated, nevertheless they remain harmful and should be righted. Having witnessed all that has happened, having walked with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin there and back again, we have been fortified and trained to combat the evils that we uncover in our homeland. Gandalf’s work is done, and now we must settle the task ourselves. Daunting, perhaps, but we take courage: we have grown up, and Gandalf has “no longer any fear at all for any of you.”

And so, though the climax of the story has been achieved and the resolution of all things is near, nevertheless there are still pages yet to turn. We may not fully drive out the ills that linger in our lives and world, but nevertheless we are tasked to do what we can. For this we have been trained; for this we have journeyed: to transform our hearts and communities, and encourage good things to grow again. One day the King shall return to these lands and set them fully aright, but until them, out of love for him and our neighbors, we labor. Whatever unfolds in that labor, however, cannot cause us to despair: for such ills cannot long linger, and Easter promises a happy ending.


2015’s Reflection: “On Returning Home

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