Suffering and Love
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
We’ve all heard the expression “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
Easily said, Hard to do. What do we do? Sometimes the Cost of
“staying in there” is a Terrible Cost, one that makes us
question whether it’s worth it.
Pain, Suffering, Loss,
Agonizing Disappointment … they all put us to the Test; they all
Test our Mettle, that Steely, Iron-Will that we can muster-up if
we look deep enough within our Hearts and Souls.
This is particularly so when it comes to sustaining our Relationships with others, even our
God, or our Church, or our Country, or our Marriages, our Careers, our Jobs.
No one escapes these Trials. No one sails-through-life without these kinds of
You and I have watched Wives stay with Husbands that have been Unfaithful, Husbands
that have been Boorish, Insensitive,
Uncaring, and totally Self-Centered. We’ve seen Husbands stay with Wives who have, for all
Intents and Purposes, shut them out of their Hearts, turned into Cold,
Unforgiving, Complaining, and
Accusing Women who make life Hellish for their Husbands.
We’ve seen Parents who have continued to Love and care-for
Teenage Kids who have
completely Ridiculed, Rejected, Defied,
and Denied any Respect or Consideration toward their Mothers and Fathers.
Is there any Suffering quite like that when you discover your Son has given himself
over to Drugs, who has dyed his hair orange, pierced his Body Parts with rings, needles and the most
Offensive and even Obscene tattoos? Is there any
Pain quite like that of seeing a young daughter Flaunt and use her
Body in order to be noticed, and usually noticed by Young Men who are little more than Users of Girls?
Each of us here today could present stories of Excruciating Loss,
Pain and Suffering. But what’s New about that? What’s New in observing that Life is
Hard, that Bad Things happen to Good
So, in talking about Loss, Pain,
Suffering, and Terrible Challenges, the Question isn’t
Why, or How all of this happens. The Question is
“What do we do about it?” It’s our Response that is at-issue, not who is Responsible or what
they’re going to do about it. The Fundamental Question is not whether we’re going to call a Hotshot Lawyer and start suing anybody
and everybody, along with whatever Institution or Group to which they belong. No. The First and
Foremost question is whether or not we are going to Flee, to Escape into some form-of-denial, or simply Give-Up, Quit, Opt-Out, and
Some Parents Fantasize about the day when the last of their Children will leave the home, and when the kids go, those
same Parents Miss them and Regret their
Loss. People who have Difficult Jobs may Fantasize about the day they no longer have to
Work, and then Miss that Work one month after they’ve Retired or gone elsewhere. Not always, mind you,
but many times.
What former, Non-Practicing Catholic does not have
a Still, Small Voice within them that calls them back to the Church and the
Holy Communion that they’ve left. What Priest, Teacher or Coach hasn’t considered quitting, yet each
Monday Morning they’re back at their Posts?
There is Compelling Power in a Life filled-with-purpose. For it is Love that puts
Fire in our Bones. Love has a Seductive Power to it, one that will not let us go. We yearn for Freedom
and then when we have it, we yearn for Belonging along with the Commitments that are inherently within any Belonging. One cannot Belong
and be free of Loss, Pain or
All Belonging Costs. Belonging to God
Costs. Belonging to the Catholic Faith
Costs. Being a Loyal Citizen of these United States, being an American, Costs.
Loyalty isn’t something that’s Cheap. Faith is never easy, nor
is Faith’s Sibling, namely Love. Anything of Great Value
Oh, we can (and do) from time-to-time lapse into Escapism and Denial. We can (and do) allow
Anger to replace Patient and Enduring Commitment. We can flee or we can feel -- feel the
Pain, that is.
Simon Peter sought to flee, to escape, and to deny. He’s a great figure for us to contemplate. How many times did Simon Peter
Waffle? How many times did he Deny? And yet
Christ named him Cephas, Rock, Peter. In the end we must remember it was Simon Peter who declared,
“Lord, you have the Words of Eternal Life. To whom else can we go?” He knew that he couldn’t go it
alone. He knew that without the Bread of Life, he would grow Weak.
We, too, know that we can’t “go it alone”, that we need our Daily Bread, the
Bread of Life that comes to us from God;
It Nourishes, Sustains and Strengthens us. We need Its Sustenance in order to Sustain our
Commitments amidst Life’s Costs -- sometimes Terrible Costs.
I’m always grateful to enter a Church and see a Cross with
Christ’s Human Body hanging on it. It shows me the Cost God
paid in order to stay with us. It causes me to ask myself how far I will go to maintain my Commitments, to sustain my
“being there” for others. When the going gets Tough,
God doesn’t flee. He hangs-in-there. And
“hanging in there” is what the Crucifix and what
Love is all about.