Even though the church is still not finished, we have the back open to the public, behind the ‘communion rail’. All during the day, people will enter and pray. Some leave a prayer request. The abbot, who opens up the doors in the morning, and closes them in the evening, will also pick up and read the prayer requests that are left there.
This morning at our Sunday Chapter, he shared some of those prayer requests with us; which I found to be very touching. We do of course receive many prayer requests. Most come through email, but quite a few are left at the back of our church. He read some of them to us, and I was deeply moved by all of them.
We can never know what is going on inside of those whom we meet on a regular basis. Even our family, and friends, may keep their struggles to themselves so that often they feel left alone. Yet, there is nothing more common in our world than personal suffering experienced in a myriad of ways. As he read off some of the requests I could feel their pain and suffering. I was touched by one prayer that ended with a “Jesus I trust in you’.
Faith is not an escape from life, but it does give one a place to stand from, giving meaning to their lives. In the Christian faith, suffering is one way to share in the suffering of Christ. It brings us to a place of total identification with the deep love and compassion of God, who became one of us in Christ Jesus, and who out of love, shares our burdens, all of them. Love, and suffering go together. The more we love, the deeper our identification with the loved one. Just ask a parent who has the ability to truly love their offspring.
Jesus said that to see Him, is to see the Father. The central revelation of Christianity is that the very nature of God is love, mercy, and compassion. Justice as well, but in God, there is no conflict, as there is with humans when it comes to mercy and justice.
No one wants to suffer, yet we all do. No one has a light load, no matter how light-hearted they may seem to others. Family issues, illness, trauma leading to PTSD, depression, addictions, and mental illness, are a part of people’s lives. It is called the human condition. Bringing us to a crossroads on how we are to deal with it. Do I deepen my faith, or give up because suffering seems to deny the reality of any God? I am amazed at how many people deepen their faith because of their trials and sufferings. There are no ‘arm-chair philosophers’ when suffering is experienced, it has to be lived through on a deeply existential level.
Faith brings to light the reality that to become bitter, or to let go of our faith, or to stay on course in our relationship with God, are actual choices. Prayer wakes us up to the reality of our lives, and that like Christ Jesus we are called to live out our days in faith and trust. Even when we are going through our own Gethsemane.
One of the normal progression of Monastic life (and also for anyone who actually makes prayer an important part of their life) is coming to terms with our connection with all who suffer. How we are called to join ourselves to them, lift them up, and when we can, to also help them as much as we are able. Or perhaps find a few people that we can help over a long period of time.
Prayer makes our heart more human, tenderer because in prayer the Holy Spirit brings healing by bringing to focus aspects of our lives that keep us from being truly free in our relationship with God. When we look to Christ Jesus, over time, we begin to understand that like Him, we have to embrace our sufferings in union with His. As St. Paul says, “I make up in my body, the sufferings that are lacking in Christ”. (Colossians 1:24) In other words, Christ Jesus continues His incarnation in us, we are called to become another Christ, for others, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians are a priestly people (1 Peter 2:9), called to intercede with Christ, for our fellow travelers.-Br.MD
Edited by markdohle