Thursday 28 March 2013

Pain and love and glory

When we draw near to the heart of Jesus, we feel his love and his joy. But we also feel his pain. In his heart, there are both contrasting emotions, especially in these days of the Passion. he rejoices, but he also weeps, is distressed, is sorrowful to the point of death.

Both emotions come from the same root: the way God reveals himself. "I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to little babes." But why the sorrow? It is not primarily physical pain, or the prospect of such pain. It is the pain that comes from the lack of response. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."

All our relationships and loves bring joy and pain. Ex amore procedit et gaudium et tristitia, said St Thomas Aquinas very rightly. But the pain that we experience in our relationships is often born of attachment, possessiveness, selfishness, expectations. Can we assume that the pain of Jesus was born of attachment? Or should we not think that there is a pain that is rooted also in true love, a love that does not find a response, a love that suffers at the fragility of the response as in the case of Peter, a love that is distressed that one of his own betrays him (Judas)? For there is that kind of pain too. It is the pain of the heart of God. It is the suffering of God. God who is a beggar before the human heart. God who is a beggar before my heart. He can only wait there, in patience, till I open, till I hold the door open, that he might enter and take over, once, repeatedly, completely, forever.

And this is the moment of glory. This moment of joy and sorrow. In this moment the heart of God is fully revealed. In this moment we know what the heart of God is like. It is a heart that loves, that suffers because of the lack of response, but that continues to love nonetheless. "He knew what was in the hearts of men, and he did not trust himself to them." But also: "he had loved his own, and he loved them to the end." Imperfect as they were, hard-hearted as they were, fickle as they were, self-centred as they were. God who is a mystery of continuous and ongoing kenosis, self-emptying, God reveals the depths of this mystery to us in this moment of great pain: he continues to love us even when we do not love him. So it is not the young Jew in the burning ghetto at Warsaw who is the first to shout out: I will continue to love you forever, O God of anger, even if you do not love us. It is not the young Francis de Sales who is the first to say: I will love you every moment that you allow me to in this life, even if you will not allow me to love you in the hereafter. It is God who has shouted, it is God who shouts out to us: I will continue to love you forever, even if you do not love me. This is the moment of Jesus' glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father. Here is fully and dramatically revealed the love of God.

And perhaps there is also the note of obedience, surrender. Once again, self-emptying and love.


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