Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Blessing of Suffering

As I was praying in church before mass one morning this week, my thoughts drifted to the state of the world, and the increasing self-centeredness of people, and to how narcissism is now considered as a virtue, not an illness.  Socialism, getting things for me, is now highly rated in our country.  It’s a focus on the lowest level of happiness --- which I recently wrote about --- that grips increasing numbers of people, who say:  I’m not happy because I don’t have enough things; I think others are not happy because they don’t have enough things.
And then my thoughts at the church became focused on another concern of mine:  caregiving.  I no longer care for mom, but I do coordinate a caregiver’s support group --- and it is a much needed and appreciated thing.  And I also work to support a group of caregivers who care for developmentally disabled adults; and they are all beautiful people, both the caring ones and the ones being cared for. 
And then suddenly, I was blessed to see the connection between these two concerns of mine:  the first concern is about too many people loving themselves, while the second is about now enough people loving others.  And I saw the obvious disconnect:  the ones focused on themselves can see neither the needs (and sufferings) of those needing to be loved, nor the fact that IF they chose to fill that need they themselves would be made happier.  And I also saw the bigger picture:  as mankind deteriorates into a Satan-inspired love of self, God provides even more opportunities to love others.  In effect, as Satan tempts us one way, God provides opportunities to go the other.  So:  I don’t think it is any coincidence that as people increasingly lower into self-centeredness, there are increasing numbers of elderly and even youth suffering in various forms of illness, incurable illness or fragility ---people needing loving care, a care which requires others to step up from just caring for themselves.  Their suffering is really a blessing for others, an opportunity to strengthen the biological family and the church family.  The greater mix of older people is a gift of God, an opportunity to love, so that where evil may reign, virtue may triumph. 
Caregivers are those who love those who need love.  It is not a well-respected vocation in our society right now, but caregivers find that giving love to those suffering or in need makes the caregivers’ lives much more fulfilling.  Go back and read some of the words in my review of the play: Man of LaMancha.  That image of Christ which the knight displayed, read his words about fighting for the right no matter the cost, about being willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.  This is the world of the caregiver. 
I saw, as I sat in that church the other morning, how God has led me to where I am.  He made me a caregiver of my mom for seven years --- something certainly I would never have chosen on my own.  He let me see her sufferings, her need for love, and He led me through her sufferings, my fears of not knowing what to do, and my fears of being terribly alone and failing my beloved mom.  Yet there in the darkness he spoke to my heart:  I am your beloved; I am here.  And now God has led me down that path of caring for the caregivers.   Now I am positioned to use the talents, the organizational skills He blessed me with, coupled with the love He taught me, to care for caregivers --- just at that point in time when we need ever more caregivers in this society: both for those needing caring, and for the caregivers themselves, who need to learn how to love --- without counting the cost --- as He taught me.
Jesus said that “I will be with you until the end of time.”  I responded “Jesus I trust in You.”  The Man of LaMancha said “This is my quest.”
Are you meant to be a caregiver also, or a caregiver of caregivers?  Both are mighty challenges, worthy of a knight-errant:  to love without counting the cost.  Entering into daily prayer would be a good place to start your quest:  “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.  I want to do Your will --- not mine.”  This is a start to a new journey, your journey to be as He made you to be.  Ask, and He will answer.  Don’t look for the answer in an hour, in a day, or in a week.  It will be in His time.  It will come.  Wait.  Trust, and mean it.  Talk to him; read of Him and His saints.  Be in His presence.  He will talk to His friends.
How blessed, how fortunate, are those servants whom the Lord will find watchful when he comes.  Blessed is the time of waiting when we stay awake for the Lord, the Creator of the universe, who fills all things and transcends all things.  How I wish he would awaken me, his humble servant, from the sleep of slothfulness, even though I am of little worth.  How I wish he would enkindle me with that fire of divine love. … I pray to you, Lord, that love does not fail my lantern, burning within me and giving light to others, may it always be lighted and never extinguished.
      -- Saint Columban, abbot.
our help and our guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.
Do you have any idea how many ways there are to love in this world?  They are innumerable, and they are synergistic:  Love of God brings about love of neighbor; love of neighbor brings about love of God.  The failures of the world are opportunities for us to love; our opportunities to love are opportunities to change the world.  Certainly to love neighbor is a one-by-one thing, but there are many neighbors, and it is not just OUR love, for we were never meant to love alone.  Our family, our church, these are opportunities to use our love to teach these others how to love, with us.
The family is failing in our culture; so much self-love exists, which leaves others with no one to love them.  Teach your family to love; show them how to love.  The greatest thing you could ever teach your children is not being taught in the schools:  teach them to love.  Teach them the importance of love; show them your love in action.  Be an example of love.
And should the day of your suffering come, a suffering you cannot avoid, they – or others you taught – will be there to love you.  It/you will be a blessing for them.

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