• St Michael's Church

Life is hard

Fr Simon writes:


In one way or another, the whole world is currently suffering due to the outbreak and spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus). In the midst of this situation countless individuals, groups, organisations and institutions are responding with selfless compassion to bring comfort, hope and practical support wherever they can. One unexpected side-effect of the current 'lockdown' period is that we have time to contemplate what is going on beneath the surface of our limited daily existence. This, I suggest, involves reflecting on both the goodness and the pain that the pandemic has brought to us. An article I received earlier this week, from the writing of Fr Richard Rohr, challenges us to observe and learn from the pain we experience in our lives. The rest of the words in this article are Fr Richard's. "All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. Creation has a pattern of wisdom; and we dare not shield ourselves from it, or we literally will lose our soul. We can obey commandments, believe doctrines, and attend church services all our lives and still daily lose our souls if we run from the necessary cycle of loss and renewal. Death and resurrection are lived out at every level of the cosmos, but only one species thinks it can avoid it—the human species.


I am afraid that many of us with privilege have been able to become very naïve about pain and suffering... we simply don’t have time for it. However, by trying to handle all suffering through willpower, denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be obvious: we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us — in deep and mysterious ways that become the very matrix of life and especially new life.

Only suffering and certain kinds of awe lead us into genuinely new experiences. All the rest is merely the confirmation of old experience. It is amazing to me that the cross or crucifix became the central Christian logo, when its rather obvious message of inevitable suffering is aggressively disbelieved in most Christian countries, individuals, and churches. We are clearly into ascent, achievement, and accumulation... It seems that nothing less than some kind of pain will force us to release our grip on our small explanations and our self-serving illusions. Resurrection will always take care of itself, whenever death is trusted. It is the cross, the journey into the necessary night, of which we must be convinced, and then resurrection is offered as a gift. In this time of suffering we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do with our pain? Are we going to blame others for it? Are we going to try to fix it? No one lives on this earth without it. It is the great teacher, although none of us want to admit it. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it in some form. How can we be sure not to transmit our pain onto others?"

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation, (Crossroad Publishing Company: 2004), 35–39.

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