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(The Passion) Love and Sorrow
Suffering is a part of every person’s life. We cannot live or love without pain and suffering. At the same time, humans have never had such ability to reduce physical suffering and pain through medicine, technology and advanced lifestyle. A needle can be given before the dentist goes to work; medication can relieve headaches; doctors can quickly respond to injury or accident.
Air-conditioning in cars, homes and buildings provides relief from heat. Winter cold can be reduced by house heating. Access to modern transportation eliminates the need for long walks with heavy shopping loads. A hungry person can make a phone call and have a meal delivered to their home. Perhaps because of these abilities we have to reduce pain and discomfort, and our ‘push button’ society that delivers what we want on demand, some people seem to want to avoid any pain, rather than learning to embrace it
Suffering in itself is not good, but it is part of our human condition. The more we run away from it, the less able we are to appreciate how it forms us and how it teaches us the truths about love. There are many ways that people experience suffering. Nature is a great teacher, for there we find whatever does not bend, breaks.
Pain in childbirth - This is a pain that most mothers say soon after birth they never want to experience again, but before long, the delight of their child has them thinking of enduring it again. It is symbolic of pain. Without pain there is no new life.
Seasons - The falling leaves of autumn and the barrenness of winter are a classic image for our own lives. Without winter there can be no spring. Without sorrow there can be no experience of joy and love.
Growth - Growing always involves change and loss. Each of us begins this process when we lose infancy to become a child, when childhood gives way to adolescence and so on. As a lobster grows it sheds its shell . Until the new one grows, the lobster is tender and vulnerable. Humans experience similar vulnerability in times of significant change. When a caterpillar spins and then enters its cocoon it risks everything to emerge as a butterfly. Without the darkness of the cocoon there is no butterfly.
Change - Every day brings change. Our bodies are always changing and they are completely renewed every decade. The days grow longer in summer and shorter in winter. Sunshine and rain come at different times. Each day gives way to darkness and each dark night gives way to light. Plants that are pruned grow thicker and stronger, mirroring our muscle and mind development (use it or lose it).
Friendship - People are unique and are never fully known or understood by others or by themselves. Communication is not always clear or positive and friends experience hurt and rejection from those they love. Some strong relationships even turn to hate. The myriad number of love songs reflect the deep pain caused by relationships that have broken down.
There are many other causes of sorrow. Among them are mental and physical, sexual abuse, hunger & malnutrition, poverty, oppression, isolation, loneliness, sickness,trauma and its ongoing effects, unexpected tragedy, loss of special belongings etc.
Life involves constant losing. With each loss there is an invitation to grow. Each loss is an invitation ‘to let go’. If we try to escape the realities of life by avoiding pain and suffering we don’t grow; we don’t live. Cardinal Henry Newman said “ To live is to grow, to grow is to change, and to become perfect is to have changed often”.
Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet wrote “The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Jesuit John Powell wrote “All obnoxious qualities in human beings are really cries of pain.”
How do we/can we make sense of pain ? The Jewish myth that explains sorrow is the Exodus. It is the journey from slavery to freedom . The Christian myth is the Cross. This is the new exodus. It is the journey from death to resurrection (new life). This is the journey each of us must make – to freedom.
It is the Passion that provided Paul of the Cross with a profound understanding and experience of (Jesus’) love and sorrow. Faced with the ultimate sorrow (his own death), Jesus ‘let go’ by surrendering to the will of God. Paul tried to practice this openness to God’s will. This was not so that he might do God’s will, but that God’s will would be done. Paul tried to identify with Jesus’ experience and feel his complete desolation and yet his trust in God. By living like his, a person can become identified with Jesus in his Passion. One then experiences true ‘letting go’.
For Paul, suffering is not diminished by withdrawing. It doesn’t improve things. One has to ’work through it’. Suffering without consolation brings purification, but the person does not know it at the time. It is done in faith and trust. Paul says ‘Happy is the one who strips themselves of everything (becoming free and surrendering) because he/she will be transformed. The Passion is the gateway (the way we pass through) to this new self.
Paul of the Cross once wrote “here learn the science of the saints; all is to found in the Passion of Jesus”. Paul saw the Passion as a school. It is the school where we learn how and why to ‘let go’.
Share a story about
a) Someone you know who has suffered (respect confidences)
Where did they gained strength ?
Share a story with someone about
b) An experience of your our suffering
Where did you gained strength ?
Share with someone
c) What do you have to let go of ?
Reflect and Pray about
“The Passion is the gateway to God”.
“Here learn the science of the saints; all is to be found in the Passion of Jesus”
How can the Passion teach you about suffering in your life ?