Some of you may know Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar who writes about spirituality. He founded the Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org) which is based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you can sign up to receive daily emails from the center. For the past week or so, he has been writing about suffering. How to explain suffering, where does suffering come from, why do people suffer, what to make of suffering.
In yesterday’s email, he quoted a writer named James Finley, who wrote about his own suffering from some childhood experiences, and who, through prayer, has more and more been drawn to the spirituality of writers such as John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish mystic who is best known for his “Dark Night of the Soul” which addresses the very fact of God’s seeming absence, what it means to find oneself in apparent darkness or the “dark night,” and the questions that arise from those experiences – where is God in all this? As friars, as pastoral ministers, we encounter these kinds of questions a lot.
In yesterday’s email, the line from James Finley was this: “Love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things.” You could substitute “God” for “Love” in that sentence. It’s startling at first read, because it promises no protection from the stuff of life. Isn’t that what God is supposed to do, protect us? Instead, it tells us that life brings all kinds of stuff to our doorstep, much of which we have no control over. That’s what it seems like a lot of the time for a lot of people. And yet the sentence moves from there to a sense of inexplicable sustenance – in the dark night, in the dark cave, even there, we are sustained, and we can’t say how or why, it just is.
That sentence could also sum up the experience of the life and death of Jesus. In his humanity, he was protected from nothing. He knew the full range of human experience, from the joy of fellowship with friends and companions, the wedding at Cana, the view from the mount of Transfiguration, to the utter abandonment of the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross. No protection there, nothing but dark.
And yet, even there, in that dark moment, he was sustained, his life and his whole witness – sustained, and not only that, raised up. God the Father’s final, ultimate word – this man’s life, this man’s witness, in the end, lasts, holds, is more powerful than death. And so for us.
“Love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things..”
Peace and all good!
Fr. Steve Patti, OFM