One of the things I frequently get to do as a pastoral minister is to give others advice, counsel, suggestions on how to deal with the challenges they face. So far this year I have had numerous and on-going opportunities to follow my own counsel, which is what keeps what I share with others (hopefully) from being abstract theories about which I have read, or, even worse, empty clichés and pious platitudes that help no one, but sound good perhaps to me in the moment, but leave both people feeling empty and dissatisfied. That the Lord is not just good, but is Goodness is axiomatic, a given, an atomic statement, everything prescinds from this, which is why each time we participate in the Eucharist, we are invited to taste and see His goodness by eating and drinking Him. This is reality at its most fundamental and concrete.
I am grateful this morning that Morning Prayer began with Psalm 36, which includes this strophé: "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heaven; your truth to the skies. Your justice is like God's mountain, your judgments like the deep."
In light of a long conversation I had last night with someone struggling with what I can only describe as a great evil before encountering my own comparatively minor tribulation, I was thinking again of the Holy Father's magnificent encyclical Spe Salvi, to which I turned for my homily on the beatitudes a few weeks ago. This morning I re-read paragraph 37, which begins-
"We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.."
Not being content to give us an abstract answer to the most existential and urgent human question, after invoking the Cross, Pope Benedict proceeds to cite an amazing and challenging passage written by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857):
"I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is for ever (Ps 136 ). The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me ... How am I to bear with the spectacle, as each day I see emperors, mandarins, and their retinue blaspheming your holy name, O Lord, who are enthroned above the Cherubim and Seraphim? (cf. Ps 80:1 [79:2]). Behold, the pagans have trodden your Cross underfoot! Where is your glory? As I see all this, I would, in the ardent love I have for you, prefer to be torn limb from limb and to die as a witness to your love. O Lord, show your power, save me, sustain me, that in my infirmity your power may be shown and may be glorified before the nations ... Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God, from whom every good proceeds; bless the Lord with me, for his mercy is for ever..."In the combox of my last post, responding to a comment on the redness of my blog, I stated that it is the color of the Holy Spirit and of martyrs, that is, of spirit and blood, which why this morning I implore- St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, holy martyr, pray for us. Yesterday we remebered St. Josephine Bakita, whose story the Holy Father also relates in Spe Salvi. So, we implore her as well: St. Josephine Bakita, pray for us.