This is the season of remembering. When we remember it makes raw old wounds, the pain of previous partings, and the emptyness of suffering.
Recently my father read the following reflection at a friends funeral, and again this last weekend at a service of ‘Life and Lives Lived’ that marked All Saints-tide. I share it with you now, in the hope that it might speak into the needs of others. It comes from a book he found helpful following bereavements of his own.
Nicholas Wolterstorff is an American philosopher and devout Roman Catholic. ‘Lament for a Son’ is his published journal recording his grieving during the first year following the death of his eldest son, Eric, who died aged 25 in a mountaineering accident. This reflection was put together by Dad from pages 89-90 of the book:
What is suffering? When something prized or loved is ripped away or never granted – work, someone loved, recognition of one’s dignity, life without physical pain – that is suffering.
Or rather, that’s when suffering happens. What it is, I do not know. For many days I had been reflecting on it. Then suddenly, as I watched the flicker of orange-pink evening light on almost still water, the thought overwhelmed me: I know nothing of it. Of pain, yes: cut fingers, broken bones. Of sorrow and suffering, nothing at all. Suffering is a mystery as deep as any in our existence. It is not of course a mystery whose reality some doubt. Suffering keeps its face hid from each while making itself known to all.
We are one in suffering. Some are wealthy, some bright, some athletic, some admired. But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.
This said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.
God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love.
So suffering is down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For love is the meaning. And love suffers.
Posted in particular memory of RL known to many as Larry. RIP dear man.