So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
Some patients suffer in silence; others complain loudly; a few will
complain their rights are being violated.
Recently that "right" threatens to become political as we address
the epidemic of opioid abuse. For a brief moment some experts believed medicine
could abolish all pain with a judicious application of “pain killers.” I have
seen patients who, according to the doctors, were taking “enough pain medicine
to kill a horse;” they groaned in agony and demanded more relief. One patient
could not bear to be touched. Apparently the effort to eliminate all pain only
made them more sensitive. Alcoholics and drug addicts, unfortunately, choose a
path that only leads to increasing sensitivity, accelerating hunger for relief,
overdose and death. In some cases, it seems, the only cure for pain is death.
In today’s gospel Jesus promises his disciples, “…you will grieve.” There is
no escaping it. The effort is worse than a fool’s errand.
The Christian’s specific grief follows from knowing the Lord. We have
enjoyed the ecstasy of his company; we must now suffer the agony of his
The mystics tell us they are the same thing, two sides of the same coin. The
measure of your joy is the measure of your sadness. When Jesus promises the
fullness of life he offers us that two-sided coin, but not a choice of which side
As a Franciscan I contemplate the life of Saint Francis of Assisi with the
same intensity that I read the gospels, and I recall his passionate love of “Lady
Poverty.” When everyone despised, avoided and shunned her, he courted,
betrothed and wedded her. He knew her as the widow of Jesus Christ, abandoned
since the day he died but now honored in the houses of Franciscans.
In our own time, still fleeing poverty, the world adds failure,
disappointment, loneliness, frustration and pain to the list of untouchables. Marketers
assure us we should be happy, satisfied, secure and pain free all the time. If we’re
not there is something wrong and what are you going to do about it? (Buy my
Jesus promised his disciples, “…you will grieve.” If you have known the Lord
you know grief. If you have known compassion you suffer helpless sadness. You have
seen your savior lifted on a cross and there was nothing you could do about it.
You have seen your children and grandchildren make foolish, unnecessary mistakes
and you were helpless to prevent it. You have expressed your opinion clearly and
been accused of narrow-minded arrogance and stupidity. You have tried to
alleviate poverty and been rebuked by this world’s wisdom. You have allowed the
Holy Spirit to guide your decisions and could not explain why things ended so
As the season of Lent/Easter comes to an end, we accept as gift this
two-sided coin of life in its fullness.