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The Joy in Pain

An extract from a commentary on the journey by two disciples towards Emmaus on Easter Sunday, by Fr Ronald Rolheiser in the April 16 issue of Catholic News:

"WHAT DO WE do when we're depressed? What's our temptation when a dream is shattered, when we feel betrayed, and when it seems like the trust we've shown someone was childish naivete?

"Generally the temptation is to gather what pride we have left and walk away, away from that person, away from that place of rejection, away from the humiliation, and away from our former dream, all the while saying to ourselves: "I'll never trust in this way again. I've been burned, taken in, I now know the lesson."

"As we walk away from the place where we got hurt, what do we invariably walk towards? We walk towards human consolation, towards something that looks like it will alleviate the hurt, soothe our wounded pride or distract us from the pain. Sometimes, we're so wounded, we walk towards simple bitterness and despair. We unconsciously turn our backs on energy, family, community, happiness, faith, trust in God."

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths." -- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

READING Fr Rolheiser's commentary brought to mind the Easter triduum that I had spent at St Ig. about a week ago. Fr C. "set the stage" over three days and three nights almost perfectly. So deep and yet with such clarity. I'm truly thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this very special triduum.

The theme on Holy Thursday was "Desires": What are our desires when we approach Jesus? In our Lord's words, "Who are you looking for?" (John 18:4) The theme on Good Friday was "The Power of the Lord"/"Prayer is... Dying and Rising". We are to choose between the two standards (or banners) in Jesuit lingo. In other words, Satan's lure of "riches, worldly honor and pride" versus Christ's way of "poverty, humiliation and humility". (The themes on Holy Saturday and then Easter were "Waiting and Repetition"/"Prayer is... Waiting" and "He is Not Here..."/"The Sacrifice of Being Happy" respectively.)

"In the face of suffering, it's so easy to look away or to close our hearts," Fr C said. And at times, it could be so difficult to pray that all we could do is "to cling". Yet, in the words of Finola Cunane, "The invitation of Good Friday is to embrace the darkness, to penetrate its deepest centre and to recognize it as gift. Most of us try to flee the darkness but we do ourselves a disservice when we live in denial. It is through the experience of darkness that my true self emerges. It is through the experience of darkness that God's faithfulness to me becomes more apparent."

Fr R's words resonate in the same vein, "So this is the scene: Two dejected disciples are leaving Jerusalem (symbolising the Church in the gospel of Luke) and walking towards human compensation because their dream has been shattered by the shame and humiliation of the cross. Because of this sadness, they cannot recognise Jesus when he appears on the road. Jesus walks with them and they can't recognise him. Why?

"The answer to that lies in the Agony in the Garden. In Luke's description of this, when Jesus goes out into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray he tells his disciples: "Watch!" They're supposed to learn something by watching him.

"What they were supposed to learn was what Jesus himself learned, or at least learned to accept, in Gethsemane, namely, that there is no other way to glory except through humiliation, no other way to intimacy except through unspeakable loneliness, and no other way to the light of Easter Sunday except through the darkness of Good Friday.

"... Like these dispirited disciples in Luke's Gospel, we too, when faced with the kind of pain that brings us to our knees in agony and humiliation, too often are too discouraged and too disheartened to grasp the lesson that's being taught.

"We "fall asleep out of sheer sorrow" and then, in our sadness and disappointment, we feel tempted to walk away from what's hurting us and move towards some human consolation, towards something in the world that promises earthly compensation to replace our crucified dream of faith."

Strangely, i've been receiving almost the same message everywhere i looked these days. Had gotten addicted to watching a Korean TV serial called "Jewel in the Palace" recently. The protagonist is a young girl called Seo Jang-Geum who faced numerous misfortunes with courage, intelligence and most importantly, perseverance and integrity. It was through the many trials that the the characters and the love of Seo Jang Geum and Min Jeong-ho (her galliant, sensitive admirer) were tested and polished, emerging with sparkling beauty towards the end, like precious gems.

Yes, I still dread saying the Litany of Humility. But suffering is beginning to make more and more sense. I see now how in the midst of tremendous pain, it's still possible to have joy, even the perfect joy that St Francis had described to Brother Leo, and how God could have said what St Catherine of Siena wrote in her book, The Dialogue (as quoted in The Way of the Mystics by JMT):

"I send people troubles in this world so that they may know that their goal is not this life, and that these things are imperfect and passing. I am their goal, and I want them to want me." And those who persevere in times of trial will be the ultimate victors. "They can stand in the water of great troubles and temptations, but it cannot hurt them because they are anchored to the vine of burning desire. They find joy in everything."

by tree#138680 on Tue Apr 25 06 11:47 am | profile


"The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness." -- Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, 1954

In sharp contrast, in the Korean TV serial "Jewel in the Palace" (as in many other good shows/stories with a moral), the "bad folks" are frequently the ones who pursue single-mindedly what they believe would make them happy -- to the extent that "the end justifies the means".

The end results, however, are that they end up being so miserably unhappy. :-p

Posted by: tree#138680 on Tue May 02 06 8:26 am

Pomp and Circumstance

From (then) Cardinal Ratzinger's meditations for the 2nd station of the Way of the Cross, Jesus takes up his cross (thanks to online friend A.):

Jesus, condemned as an imposter king, is mocked, but this very mockery lays bare a painful truth. How often are the symbols of power, borne by the great ones of this world, an affront to truth, to justice and to the dignity of man! How many times are their pomps and their lofty words nothing but grandiose lies, a parody of their solemn obligation to serve the common good! It is because Jesus is mocked and wears the crown of suffering that he appears as the true King. His scepter is justice (cf. Psalm 45:7). The price of justice in this world is
suffering: Jesus, the true King, does not reign through violence, but through a love which suffers for us and with us. He takes up the Cross, our cross, the burden of being human, the burden of the world. And so he goes before us and points out to us the way which leads to true life.


Lord, you willingly subjected yourself to mockery and scorn. Help us not to ally ourselves with those who look down on the weak and suffering. Help us to acknowledge your face in the lowly and the outcast. May we never lose heart when faced with the contempt of this world, which ridicules our obedience to your will. You carried your own Cross and you ask us to follow you on this path (cf. Matthew 10:38). Help us to take up the Cross, and not to shun it. May we never complain or become discouraged by life's trials. Help us to follow the path of love and, in submitting to its demands, to find true joy.

Posted by: tree#138680 on Wed May 03 06 11:48 pm

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