“There is nothing stronger than a human being united with God. Nothing can happen that will separate him from God. Neither life, nor death, nor danger or cross or suffering can tear such a person from God. God is ever near to him.” (Bl. Louis Brisson, OSFS)
“Just as human affection, when it abounds, overpowers those who love and causes them to be beside themselves, so God’s love for men emptied God (Phil 2.7). He does not stay in His own place and call the slave, He seeks him in person by coming down to him. He who is rich reaches the pauper’s hovel, and He displays His love by approaching in person. He seeks love in return and does not withdraw when He is treated with disdain. He is not angry over ill treatment, but even when He has been repulsed He sits by the door (cf. Rev 3.20) and does everything to show us that He loves, even enduring suffering and death to prove it.” (Nicholas Cabasilas)
All of you who feel heavily the weight of the cross, you who are poor and abandoned, you who weep, you who are persecuted for justice, you who are ignored, you the unknown victims of suffering, take courage. You are the preferred children of the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of hope, happiness and life. You are the brothers of the suffering Christ, and with Him, if you wish, you are saving the world.
This is the Christian science of suffering, the only one which gives peace. Know that you are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless. You have been called by Christ and are His living and transparent image.
Sound like something from Pope Francis? Wrong. This is an excerpt from the Second Vatican Council closing speeches. There are some things in the Church that just do not change.
“If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.'” (Brennan Manning)
Jerry Sitter, in his outstanding book on loss, A Grace Disguised, writes about the sudden loss of his wife, his daughter, and his mother, all in one tragic car accident. We all suffer loss and Jerry writes so well about what is common to all of us in our losses. Here is one sampling:
Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness. Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being. It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs. In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.
But in coming to the end of ourselves, we can also come to the beginning of a vital relationship with God. Our failures can lead us to grace and to a profound spiritual awakening. This process occurs frequently with those who suffer loss. It often begin when we face our own weaknesses and realize how much we take favorable circumstances for granted. When loss deprives us of those circumstances, our anger, depression, and ingratitude expose the true state of our souls, showing us how small we really are. We see that our identity is largely external, not internal.
Finally, we reach the point where we begin to search for a new life, one that depends less on circumstances and more on the depth of our souls. That, in turn, opens us to new ideas and perspectives, including spiritual ones. We feel the need for something beyond ourselves, and it begins to dawn o nus that reality may be more than we once thought it to be. We begin to perceive hints of the divine, and our longing grows. To our shock and bewilderment, we discover that there is a Being in the universe who, despite our brokenness and sin, loves us fiercely. In coming to the end ourselves, we have come to the beginning of our true and deepest selves. We have found the One whose love gives shape to our being.
Praying for you, that through whatever loss you are experiencing right now, that you might know the fierce love of God for you.
Fr. Barron aptly describes God’s irrational love for us:
Jesus’ original audience must have been puzzled indeed when they heard one of the Lord’s better-known parables for the first time. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one . . . ” Well, they probably thought, precisely no man! Sheep were a precious commodity int he ancient world, and no shepherd worth his salt would willingly risk ninety-nine in order to find one. The Lord’s follow-up story would most likely have left them equally confused. “What woman having ten coins and losing one would not . . . sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls . . . he friends and neighbors and says . . . ‘Rejoice with me.'” The coin in quetion was of very little value, less than a penny. For that minuscule amount of money, she would turn her house upside down and then, upon discovering it, would call for a party? Her friends would think her mad.
And thus we come to the point. Jesus speaks of the God who loves us lavishly, extravagantly, exuberantly, even, dare I say it, irrationally. Think of the father of the Prodigal Son, who violates every canon of justice and right order when he welcomes back (with a party!) the child who had spurned him. One way to sum up the good news of the Gospel is to say, quite simply, that the Father of Jesus Christ is crazy about us.
For those times when you say to yourself, “I did it again!” From St. Faustina’s Diary:
It so happened that I fell again into a certain error, in spite of a sincere resolution not to do so even though the lapse was a minor imperfection and rather involuntary and at this I felt such acute pain in my soul that I interrupted my work and went to the chapel for a while. Falling at the feet of Jesus, with love and a great deal of pain, I apologized to the Lord, all the more ashamed because of the fact that in my conversation with Him after Holy Communion this very morning I had promised to be faithful to Him. Then I heard these words: If it hadn’t been for this small imperfection, you wouldn’t have come to Me (Diary, 1293).
“He loves, he hopes, he waits. Our Lord prefers to wait himself for the sinner for years than keep us waiting an instant.”
~St. Maria Goretti
My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins