Tag Archives: suffering

“I feel like I’m being punished” she said… accompanying Ciara spiritually as she walks the way of the Cross

This morning it’s just as cold. So I’ve pulled the chair up, shoes are off and the feet are on the radiator, and my mug of coffee is in reach. Time for a little prayer before the next Mass at 11am.

I want to bring a recent conversation to God. “I feel like I’m being punished” she said as the voice broke and became heaving sobs.

Now as I’m praying I’m aware of how I might deal with the situation if it was me. Easy said of course – I’m not the one staring mortality!

You are not being punished, you are being asked to pick up your Cross and follow him.

You are not being punished, you are being asked to share in Christ’s burden of salvation, to become his intimate co-worker.

You are not being punished, you are being chosen, privileged, and called…

When you think punishment, think the opposite.

God doesn’t punish us.

God is always seeking to save us and when we’re feeling like we’re being punished remember that the worse case scenario is that this experience is “correction” leading ultimately to the realization that life is not ours.

This simple realization is revolutionary but it is also very difficult to reach – or teach – because we’re part of a generation that’s buried itself in itself, that has lost its soul to “my” life and to the glorification of the human body and its ego.

So, when you’re feeling punished know that it is not punishment, but God breaking down the ego and preparing you for greater things.

The truth is that life belongs to God and may I add; to do with as he pleases, which is always to bring you to salvation.

“What have you got that wasn’t given to you?” St. Paul asks.

As these moments of prayer draw to a close I suddenly realize that it’s 10.56am and the Altar isn’t even set for Mass!

Ciara’s cancer has returned… accompanying Ciara spiritually as she walks the way of the Cross

This evening I approach the Altar carrying Ciara.

Ciara’s cancer has recurred.

As I raise the bread and wine I’m staring at the figure of Christ hanging on the Cross that stands on the Altar.

And suddenly it’s not just the body and blood of Jesus in my hands but also the body and blood of Ciara.

There’s a oneness… I’m offering two bodies and bloods and they’ve become one… his body and blood so bruised and battered even before he’s raised on the Cross and her body and blood already marked and scarred – bruised and battered – by surgery and years of cancer treatment.

I can’t hold these bodies and bloods tenderly enough in my hands. I’m in awe… almost overcome by a mixture of reverence, respect, wonder and fear as I stare at a deep spiritual truth. I can’t move from the sight.

I have to work hard to stay present to the people in front of me.

I think of the generations who’ve embarked on this very path, the way of the Cross, especially the generations who gathered in this Shannon Chapel… one great procession through history making their way to the Cross… and resurrection.

For a moment I asked that He take my body instead of hers… and then I think how difficult that would be for all to whom I mean so much…

And instantly I think of all to whom she means so much and how difficult it is for them…

Sitting on the low stool – suffering in our lives.

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’ll begin and end this piece with Padre Pio.

Speaking about human suffering Pio said: “Jesus does not ask us to carry the heavy cross, but a piece of his cross, the piece that consists of human suffering.”

Suffering has shaken the faith of many.

Still does.

When good people suffer we question, we’re puzzled.

Yet Jesus always taught his followers to expect it, not to run from it, but to pick it up, carry it and follow after him.

It’s very clear that Jesus believed suffering to be an essential element on the path to salvation.

He even goes as far as calling Peter’s objections the work of Satan!

Jesus teaches that if you try to avoid suffering – the stuff that just comes your way, uninvited – which he calls wanting to “save your life” you will actually lose your life; losing your life here (in this context) means losing salvation.

Catch a hold of that! The refusal to carry the suffering you can do nothing about means the loss of salvation, the loss of the next life!

It’s a teaching that couldn’t be more opposed to the whole euthanasia and assisted suicide movement.

It’s a teaching that couldn’t be more opposed to the often voiced preference for a bullet rather than a care home.

It’s a teaching that puts most people offside!

Jesus goes on; if you embrace your suffering, seek to carry it for the sake of Jesus and the gospel (in the worldly sense “losing your life”) you’ll save it, you’ll merit salvation – heaven.

There is no resurrection for Jesus without the passion.

There will be no share in that same resurrection for you and for me unless we also share in that same passion, in whatever format it comes to each one of us.

In 1947 forty five people, most of them war orphans between the ages of four and thirteen lost their lives at sea, shipwrecked less than 100 metres from shore off the coast of Italy.

When Padre Pio was asked about the tragedy he replied:

“It would do you well to listen. There is a mother embroidering. Her son, sitting on a low stool, watches her work, but he sees everything backwards. He sees the knots of the embroidery, the confused threads. So he says: ‘Mother, what are you doing? Why is your work so unclear?’ Then his mother lowers the frame and shows the other side of her work, the fine part. Each colour is in place and the variety of threads is composed neatly and harmoniously.” Padre Pio concluded, “Down here we see only the reverse of the embroidery. We are sitting on the low stool.”