Suffering

Lent 20 ~ Grief to Joy

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          Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.   ~  John 16: 20

          One major problem is resolved today even without the win of a court case to help us. My heart is filled with a deep peace and serenity to see the joy in other hearts. For the confirmation of the good news to come on a Wednesday, a day I dedicate to St. Joseph, means a lot to me. It says to me that St. Joseph heard a mother’s plea.

          Looking back over our journey these past few months especially, something stands out – after struggles, consolation comes, but it lasts for short time before another struggle looms bigger. I often felt as if we needed to ask for grace and strength and hope – every few days. It puzzled me why grace didn’t seem to last very long. Often I wondered if it meant that I wasn’t being grateful enough or if I was blind and deaf to what God had so kindly laid out for me.

          While it is all that as well, it came to me today that perhaps this is what it feels like when it gets closer to a summit. When the path gets steeper towards the end, consolation gets replaced by a new need ever so often, making us seek new light from heaven just as soon as we have been comforted.

          I may never know the answer to it. In some ways today, it matters not either. As the eastern skies burst into a blaze of silvery orange, I know that in this one grief of ours, the old words I heard one still dawn 14 years ago, Sorrow before joy, has come true.

          Grief has indeed become joy.

Lent 17 ~ A Better Sunday

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10 He was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
11 And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
12 When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
13 He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
15 The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?
16 This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?
17 When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.   ~  Luke 13: 10 – 17, Cure of a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

          For some time now, I’ve been trying to make my Sunday one of deep thankfulness, even as I cook and do home chores, to sink myself into gratitude for all God has given me. This Sunday was no different. After such an eventful week, I looked forward to a quiet Sunday at home with blue skies lit by the sun and the breezes in joyful mirth.

          Instead, I had to go in to work for a short while. I took it in stride, figuring that I would be in and out in no time. Then, came a call and the person at the other end stuck a knife into me. And that was the end of Thankful Sunday.

          As far as hurts go, honestly, this was a very small one, but for some reason, the pain grew and grew into a tree. I said all the prayers which worked so wonderfully for me before and called upon St. Joseph too – but none of the previous miracles came to life again. I was puzzled but did not leave heaven’s door either. I had to know why this was happening.

          Heaven did answer my questions – by bringing me news of another woman’s workplace suffering. I did not know this lady personally but as she told me about how she was abused by those whom she cared and looked out for, her suffering hurt me so much. So much of it mirrored my own experiences here, yet hers had reached pits far deeper than mine.

          Desperate to do something for her that would alleviate this terrible sadness, I told her I would keep all her tears in my heart and take them to God. I didn’t know if that helped her but she continued to personally tell me of the many things she had to endure at work. As she spoke, I saw that apart from the similarity in pain, the bridge between us was that we both sought God through our different faiths, she a Muslim, I a Christian.

          All through this, my own hurt stubbornly remained before me. Even as I saw how much more this woman suffered compared to the nick I received today, it did not reduce my pain – and I could not understand why.

          It also did not make sense to me why God would allow this when I had sought to give Him nothing but thanksgiving this Sunday.

          Some hours later, I saw that my newfound suffering friend had become cheery, now sharing bits and pieces of sunshine where there had only been pain before. I also realised that while the memory of my own hurt remained, the sting had gone. Curious, I reflected upon this development.

          Then, in my mind suddenly formed this story from the Bible, about how Jesus had cured a woman on the Sabbath,

This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?

          That was when it all came together. God had allowed a hurt to pierce me this Sunday morn so that I would reach out and offer some comfort to another wounded soul. A necessary wounding to help someone else rise from sorrow and go on to hope.

          As I pondered this, Someone’s words swept across my heart,

A better Sunday

Lent 10 ~ To the Heart of God

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That prayer is most likely to pierce heaven which first pierces one’s own heart.   ~   Thomas Watson

          Early this morning, someone visited me in a profound dream. A sports superstar, one of the greats in his field. He lives on the other side of the world. His world and mine have never intersected and never will.

          And yet in the purple darkness of a day just coming to life, it appears that he came to me in a pleading.

          When dreams are dramatic yet leave no lasting mark on my soul, it is the sign to me that they mean nothing. But this one today, in the darkest hour before dawn, pierced my heart with its sadness and regret. A man in an invisible prison, held behind bars no one could see, asking for the impossible.

          Many are the struggles of this human race, yet, the most public of them are seldom the hardest. Often, the crosses that bite the deepest constitute the most hidden of struggles. A man like this star, for whom money could buy almost anything, could certainly avail himself of any form of luxury or aid. But when success places one on the pedestal of worship and adulation, it can be hard to ask for help. It can be harder to even convince others that help is needed.

          In a dream many years ago, I saw a white map of the world, suspended in the bluest skies above an old European city of whitewashed buildings and clean but deserted streets. In that dream, I was warned of a coming nameless terror. Later, St. Jude indicated to me that it was time to “leave my church” and to go to another of need. Pray for others, St. Jude had said to me. Then, today, comes this searing dream, this voiceless plea from a man who has seemingly everything, a man in a European country, a world away.

          A dream come today perhaps to ask if I would pray for others as others have prayed for me. But more importantly I suspect, to first acknowledge my own sins and come clean before God, and then to pray for this man, icon of the world, yet as broken as any of us.

          All the more I turn away – because to pray for this soul, I will have to pass through the portal of my own weaknesses. There is no pleasure in that. But at the very moment I make ready to flee, I recall something I read just the day before: that before any form of prayer is prayed, we need to first squarely face ourselves. No hiding behind excuses or distractions but to come clean to ourselves. If we can be honest with ourselves, only then can we open our own hearts to God. Only then can we reach out and give help where it is needed, exactly as it is needed.

          And so I turn back to face myself. Then, I gather up my sins and go before the Heart of God. I reach into this Great Heart and leave them there. Finally, I lift up this man and into this same Heart, I place him and his needs as I have perceived them.

          Still praying, a while later I realise that only the memory of the dream remains. The sadness is no more, not a trace.

          It tells me that my work is done. We have both gone to the Heart of God.

Lent 7 ~ Because You Loved Me

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          In all your needs, trustfully have recourse to the divine Heart, and I am confident that our Lord will provide for your wants; but above all be very grateful for the many benefits He has bestowed on you.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Yesterday’s court case was postponed. On another front, a very important meeting is to be held today to discuss a similar issue. I am not sure how that will go. But along comes my beloved St. Margaret Mary to give me the hope I need. And to gently cup my face and turn it towards the sun.

Be very grateful

          Since last year, this has come to me over and over. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful. When others suffer, pray for them but above all, pray the prayer of lived gratefulness. For every loss you come to know, go beyond words, go home and embrace what you have been blessed with. Touch the wounds of others through your own gratitude.

Be very grateful

          What else have I not been grateful for? Today, I look over my life, seeking areas gratitude has not touched. Immediately it comes. The trials and tribulations. The sorrows and pain. The grief, the tears. Those terrible valleys where streams of wounding-s flow undeterred.

Be very grateful

          Where do I find the words for this gratitude, I wonder. How do I embrace in truth and sincerity this pain I never want again?

          Once more, barely have the thoughts formed when I see an image flash before me.

          Lean against the Heart of God.

          And I do. And immediately come the words for the gratitude,

You blessed me with those wounds

Because You loved me.

When the Rainbow Meets the Earth

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          A few days ago, in an unexpected answer to weariness over yet another spate of work shenanigans, God showed me the reason why He willed some forms of suffering for me. He did this through an account of suffering endured by St. Faustina Kowalska due to bullying by another nun.

As I was taking leave of the sisters and was about to depart, one of them apologized much to me for having helped me so little in my duties, and not only for having neglected to help me, but also for having tried to make things more difficult for me. However, in my own heart, I regarded her as a great benefactress, because she had exercised me in patience to such an extent that one of the elder sisters had once said, “Sister Faustina must be either a fool or a saint, for truly, an ordinary person would not tolerate having someone constantly do such things out of spite.” However, I had always approached her with good will. That particular sister had tried to make my work more difficult to the point that, despite my efforts, she had sometimes succeeded in spoiling what had been well done, as she herself admitted to me at our parting, and for which she begged my pardon. I had not wanted to probe her intentions, but took it as a trial from God…

I am greatly surprised at how one can be so jealous. When I see someone else’s good, I rejoice at it as if it were mine. The joy of others is my joy, and the suffering of others is my suffering, for otherwise I would not dare to commune with the Lord Jesus. The spirit of Jesus is always simple, meek, sincere; all malice, envy, and unkindness disguised under a smile of good will are clever little devils.   ~   St. Faustina Kowalska, Entries 632-633, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. 

          The minute I read that entry, I knew it was for me, there was no dodging it. And yet, I resolutely closed my door to it. I simply could not see myself acknowledging, much less thanking in my heart, the woman at work who’s making life so difficult for me. I could forgive, but to offer thanks for every piercing she had subjected me to, even in the hiddenness of my discernment, was asking too much of me. 

          That was for saints.

          It was beyond me and beyond God to expect that of me!

          But God being God, He is never encumbered by the many fences I erect against Him, neither does He allow Himself to be  confined within the paddocks of my pride and fear.

          God doesn’t give up either.  He would have me face His teaching squarely and bravely.

          After Mass by a visiting priest, I sought Father for Confession. And Jesus spoke through him.

          Father’s sermon that day had been about St. Bernadette Soubirous, the Lourdes seer. And now, he returned to it, beginning where the Lourdes apparitions  had come to an end, and Bernadette had sought the silence and hiddenness of convent life. There, she suffered under a Novice Mistress who could not see what God Himself had seen in His little Bernadette. As a result, Bernadette, more than any other novice, suffered deep humiliations and cruelty at her hands.

          And then, Fr gently pointed out:

          St. Bernadette did not become a saint because she saw  Mother Mary – but because she endured all her sufferings.

          Falling into quiet for a few seconds, the priest looked at me in an odd yet deeply gentle way, as if he was seeing me… and yet, as if he was looking through my eyes, into something else.

          Patience, he nodded presently, as if the answer had just been given him. You must be patient, he spoke again, telling me I needed to suffer what my colleague was doing to me, in order to attain heaven.

          Everything within me went still. Because I hadn’t said a word about my colleague to him. Fr was an outstation priest from another distant parish, filling in for our parish priest. There was no way he could have known.

          But Fr wasn’t done reading my heart. He went on to lift the veil on the reason for the attacks at work.

It is due to jealousy, he said.

          At his words, I saw before me, St. Faustina’s words in her diary entries about the attacks from the other nun. This time, they did not rebuff me. No barrier did I erect against the Voice that spoke through them, for the Shepherd’s staff is crooked for a purpose – to guide sheep bent on going elsewhere, through a gate, to the next pasture.

          God was now using His staff to tug me towards this new pasture, this world that Bernadette had come to know. To live in it in joy. In obedience.

In patience.

          God is telling me that the way forward is by keeping my eyes on the pasture, the here and now, not on the roads that lead from it. The here and now for me was to carry my Crosses the Bernadette Way, to give of myself to others – the Bernadette Way, and the Bernadette~patience I needed, to suffer in order to unfurl the mercy of the Eucharist, as far as God wants to send it out through me.

          Many years before, Jesus gave me my mission.

Wipe My Blood,

He had told me. Wipe My Blood. It had taken me many more years before I finally understood that it was a mission of reparation, to atone for the transgressions of others, even as I atoned for my many sins.

          And today, St. Bernadette, the humble, holy, hidden saint of Lourdes to whom the Mother of God appeared, has come to show me how to live in this new pasture:

          To live in the joy and freedom – of the Cross – not escape it.

          To live by keeping my eyes on the here and now. To perfect my suffering – in order to save souls.

          Someday, someday when I’ve finally reached the rainbow’s end, I will look back at the Crosses I’ve been given and my understanding will be complete. The day will come when I will no longer see those Crosses as hard, cruel and unbearable. Something to run away from, to be freed of.

          I will finally come to see each Cross of mine as the very Heart of Jesus that I’ve searched the world over for. The Heart of the Good Shepherd, for whom no suffering is too much to save even one soul.

          When that day comes, the rainbow will finally meet the earth.

          I will see.

          And I will rejoice.

 

 

 

 

 

Beware Tepedity

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The reason why the lukewarm run so great a risk of being lost is because tepidity conceals from the soul the immense evil which it causes.   ~   St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

 

          Trying days. So much to be done and yet, there are still those who do not see the need to bestir themselves to love. The only effort they are interested in is that which does not cost. Which does not call for a sacrifice that stretches and hurts. We are surrounded by people who suffer, and we are surrounded by people who shun the sacrifice of suffering. People can die, children’s souls can be stolen, families can be ripped apart.

          And yet, we choose to refuse to see simply because it is too hard to love by suffering. We want to love in other ways but not by suffering. Reparation is an ugly word because it asks for us to accept in humility the Crosses bequeathed to our spirits.

          And that is too hard because we want to be able to choose our Crosses.

          We do not want to be troubled too much, too long.

          The tepidity that conceals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 27 ~ The Tiniest Dart

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          I’ve been home on sick leave for the past two days. And a colleague decided to have some fun at my expense. Even if I were hale and hearty, her selfishness would have rankled; battling the flu, the tiniest dart was magnified.

          And so began the back and forth that is my lot every time someone hurts me: the plotting of my response, followed by running to God. Then, the revisiting of that wound, another round of plotting, repentance, back to God. It’s the same wearying cycle every time that you’d think I would have tired of it at this age.

          Not even the flu could keep me away from this negative cycle.

          The only difference was perhaps that I ran very quickly to God every time I was tempted to a snarky rebuttal. I prayed and prayed for the grace to suffer this mere splinter of a Cross. What was the use of coming this far in the journey only to be felled by a yellow breath?

          Yet the struggle wore on. I went to bed with it on my heart, even with all the prayers. When I awakened, feverish and aching in the purple-wreathed dawn, my hurt was before me. I was chagrined. Why did I not seem to be improving? Why wasn’t I becoming a stronger person when others hurt me? Why was I so sensitive to the callousness of those around me? It seemed that the more I learned of God, the weaker and more feeble I was becoming.

          Why are You allowing this? I asked God.

Your sufferings will be made of weakness and weariness and dependence on others.   ~   Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu

          Even in my feverish state, the words pierced through. Not any other type of suffering, but the one that hurt me most – made of weakness, weariness and dependence on others. Oversensitivity to a curt remark, a stony look, a snide giggle. No need for an actual sword to bring me to my knees. All it took was the tiniest dart and I would fall.

          Why?

Your sufferings will be made of weakness and weariness and dependence on others.

          Because it is willed. Because sometimes, the greatest of my Crosses will be concealed within in the tiniest dart.

 

 

 

 

Lent 7 ~ Wound Me

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Allow Me to speak to you in such a way as to wound you with the piercing of Divine Love. When you come before Me and wait upon Me in silence, you are, in effect, allowing Me, when I choose and in the way I choose, to wound you with an interior word and to set you on fire with a communication of divine love. ~ Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu.

          What wounding is this that awaits me in this adoration journey? Will it be worse than what I have endured so far? Already I feel my enthusiasm for adoration waning slightly.

          Because I fear suffering more than anything. I have none of the welcoming of suffering that the saints have.

          How the saints welcome suffering is beyond me! Anything is bearable for the love of God.

          When I place myself beside these old greats, I see where it is that I am different from them: I cannot suffer like them because I do not love to the extent that the saints  can. The saints can suffer anything because they love God completely. Every sliver of self-love has been burned away, leaving hearts aflame only with the love for God.

          To seal this understanding, my eyes fall upon these next lines.

          My words are like arrows of fire shot into the heart and wounding it so as to inflame it and heal it with divine love~ In Sinu Jesu

          Dare I open myself to this? Already my heart is cowering in fear.

          Thy Will be done.

 

 

Water Will Win

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          In late December last year, we had a houseful of Christmas guests, one of whom was my old mother-in-law. We were having a crisis that most in the family, in the bliss of Christmas, was unaware of, and my mother-in-law was at the centre of that crisis. My husband and I had been struggling to save his mum who, in her old age, seems bent on choosing any rose-strewn path – the wider, the better. Her choices in life have brought us a lot of deep suffering, and very often, I have struggled to love her, to pray for her. That Christmas week, the moment she arrived at our place and alighted from the car and quickly made her way past us into our home, I had to bite down the bitter disappointment that she couldn’t be more of a beacon for us. That even in this old age, she was choosing paths that did not lead to heaven. That our struggles for her, especially what my husband was enduring and suffering for her, didn’t seem to be helping.

          Despite my acute disappointment in her that day, I decided I would keep my tongue well out of the way at the back of my teeth – for the sake of my husband. He had surely noticed his mother’s mood and it would be wounding enough without my adding another caustic edge to his heartache. So, for the first few busy minutes of photos and hugs and squeals, I let Mum be. But when lunch was served, something moved in me and I went to make sure she was taken care of.

          That was the tone for the rest of the day and even into the next. I kept an eye on her but generally kept out of her way. There was no anger in me, but I didn’t trust myself to not fall into red pits because I was very tired and Mum had a penchant for getting a rise out of me.

          One afternoon, lunch over, everyone relaxing in quiet corners, I went to have a short nap to recharge for dinner preparations. Oddly, so tired though I was, my prayer for inner quiet was answered in those cloudy afternoon hours where the yellow~blue winds sang restless notes among the trees. Into that quiet I descended and began to pray for a special peace in all hearts gathered under our roof.

          I fell asleep.

          I had a dream.

          I dreamt of a room in my home being flooded to the roof. It was just this one room. Unlike my old dream from years ago where I saw a terrible, filthy torrent rush into our town, this water was as clear as crystal, and it was only in my home. I worried about what damage this water would do to our furniture.

          Then, I opened the door to this room, this same water drained into where I was. I managed to catch a glimpse of the room where the water had come from, – and I saw very clearly that the water had not damaged any of the furniture.  

          Then, this water knocked me over.

          It then flowed out through another set of doors that opened out over a peaceful garden.

          Getting up from the floor, I went to those doors, and there in the garden, I saw Mum with my husband. I saw her as I have not for so very long: at deep peace. She was gardening with my husband by her side and it was a picture of a mother and a faithful son who loved each other heart and soul.

          When I awakened and asked God what it meant, I felt these words written on my heart:

Momentarily overwhelmed.

          I knew then that this year would be very hard. One room in the house being flooded could perhaps mean that some weeks would be harder than others, and that I would be knocked off balance, that I would fall, but like the water in my dream did not damage the furniture in the room, that the suffering would not hurt as much as I feared.

          But the suffering was needed to save my Mum.

          Then, I remembered the water, and how clear it was. When I asked God why the water was clear, speaking through my godmother, He told me it was hidden graces. Graces that don’t seem like graces at all. Graces that come in the hardest packages. I understood anew then that, that is what suffering is – a hidden grace. I would be knocked over, momentarily overwhelmed, how many times I know not, but each one would be a hidden grace because the pain I endure would save someone else.

          The grace of reparation.

          Nearing the end of her brief stay with us, one night, I took photos of the family, and there was one of Mum watching the kids in the family crowd around a board game. When she had returned to her own home, I had a look at the pics and at this one of my mother-in-law. She was looking away, focused on the teens, and she wore the beginnings of smile. I then saw something in the photo that I hadn’t seen earlier – the first sparkles of joy.

          Joy that wasn’t there when she first came.

          In the weeks that followed, in the daily chats with her, we realized joy had indeed returned to my mother-in-law. It gave her strength to walk paths different to what she had always chosen. It flooded her with love for some people she had taken for granted. It made all the Christmas struggles and pain worth every hurting morsel.

          God’s Light had come into Mum’s old heart once more.

          Grace of reparation.

          Early this week, a colleague’s antics unpleasantly ruffled my day. I tried to stay above the muck that follows a wounding but it wasn’t easy. As the hours rolled on, despite my efforts, it seemed like I was losing this battle to love and forgive.

          Then, I prayed to be given the strength to bear this minor hurt for my sins.

          And that too failed.

          The day came to an end. I was puzzled and discomfited as to why all the ‘right’ prayers seemed to fail.

          When the new day broke, Someone gently took my mind back to Christmas of last year. To my mother-in-law’s initial aloofness and the reason for it. From there, my mind was led back to my Water Dream. And the dream took hold of my mind. Even as the hurt from the previous day remained, it felt like the memory of the dream was the more powerful.

         I then received an email from a dear friend. Its stark words revealed a deep suffering that had deepened even further recently. My heart ached for him.

          Suddenly, the Water Dream formed out of the mists before me again.

          I had a sudden inspiration: offer my hurt over my colleague for this. Suffer it for this friend close to my heart, thousands of miles and many countries away.

          The moment my will fused to this, I felt strength and clarity return. The strife~winds that had rattled my inner windows departed. I went to my day with a new purpose.

          My colleague added a few more nicks to her repertoire against me, yet, no blood did they draw.

          I knew then that the Water of Reparation had won. I had been overwhelmed but momentarily.

          As was promised.

 

 

 

 

 

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