December 18, 2000
volume 11, no. 265
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW for Monday, December 18, 2000
No one is ever alone in carrying their cross
It's a sad fact that during this time of year suicides increase. Why is that? The number of people feeling alone, those who are alone or and those depressed over a personal conflict. All of this tends to heighten with the scenes of lights, music, happy families, etc.
What is even sadder is that for many of these, they seem to have forgotten that they aren't truly alone, that they aren't facing problems by themselves. Let's first consider that Our Lord came to us in the most depressing of circumstances. His parents were required by law, Caesar's decree, to travel from Galilee to Bethlehem. They couldn't have welcomed this obligation imposed on them, yet they went. When they arrived, they found no place to stay, being forced to find lodging in what was probably nothing more than a small cave, a hole in a rock face. Alone and poor, they immediately discovered that they were being hunted, persecuted, for no better reason than the time of His birth.
In many ways, He faced much of what these poor souls face. Yet, He was never alone. Not just that Joseph and Mary was with him (it is very possible to feel alone in a crowded room of loved ones), but God, His Father was with Him as well. No doubt His human nature was weighed down with feelings of being alone, but His faith in His Father was what sustained Him. I feel confident in saying this because, as St. John wrote, He experienced all that we experience, except sin.
"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (John 1:10-11)
In this, we can find joy. That regardless of what we face, of how bad we feel, we are truly not alone, our Lord is with us, holding out His loving hand waiting for us to grasp it.
St. John of the Cross said that it was in our 'dark night of the soul that we often find God.' St. Bernadette Soubirous said that our Blessed Mother told her that she could not promise her happiness in this world, only in the next. In fact, often times these feelings, real or imagined, are there for a reason which we cannot yet see.
A mother goes through pain and suffering as her child is born. Her distress is soon replaced by the joy of holding her new born child.
"When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in My name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16: 21-24).
St. Francis wrote of perfect joy. "….if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for the love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!….Above all the graces of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring suffering, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Jesus Christ' " (Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapter 8).
In fact, St. Francis declared that he could rejoice when, at preaching at a coming chapter, all the friars cried out, "We don't want you to rule over us, because you are very simple and uneducated, and we are very ashamed to have a simple and contemptible person like you as our superior" (St. Francis of Assisi; Omnibus of Sources, page 1502).
It's human nature to run from adversity, to fight against difficulties, to stand against ridicule. Sometimes, as St. Philip Neri wrote, these 'crosses' are of our own making. Other times, we have no control of them, seeming to come from nowhere for no apparent reason. Either way, they can be seen to be precious as gems if we attach them to the cross of Christ.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may be found to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him you love Him; though you do not now see Him you believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy" (1 Peter 1: 3-8).
"For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground; but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause; who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain upon the earth and sends waters upon the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He takes the wise in their own craftiness; and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday as in the night. But he saves the fatherless from their mouth, the needy from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal" (Job 5:6-18).
It was to the lowly shepherds that the announcement of the Lord's birth was first given. It was to the sinner, the poor, the 'disenfranchised' that Christ brought the Good News of hope, the love of God. It was for us that He was born in poverty, lived in obscurity, was humiliated and scorned by the learned and powerful, and counted with criminals and crucified. While on earth, He was with the depressed, the oppressed.
"Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53: 1-5).
I recall listening to my parents and grandparents tell me of how, even in their poverty, they had joyous Christmases. Maybe that's because the Christmas isn't in the gifts, their quantity or quality. Maybe the best gift we can give to others is the reminder that they're loved, and their pain and suffering may be to their benefit, God's way of trying to draw them closer to Him. And us as well.
For past columns by Pat, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives
December 18, 2000
volume 11, no. 265
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW
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