Paul yearned to see Timothy again – knowing that he would be filled with joy once he laid eyes on him. This yearning was so profound that during their separation Paul recalled Timothy’s tears while holding him in constant prayer. Given the understanding I have of generational patterns, I love how Paul honored Timothy’s mother and grandmother – the women who raised Timothy in the faith. We too desire to share such a bond with others; however, before our hearts can experience this kind of brotherly love they must be properly orientated towards Christ. Like Paul and Timothy, we too must turn to our faith in times of suffering.
Julian of Norwich (1432 – 1416)
Through my recent study of Julian of Norwich’s work, The Revelations of Divine Love, my heart is developing a greater understanding of God’s all-consuming healing love. I would like to share a bit of my understanding with all of you. Julian was an English Catholic mystic and theologian in the Middle Ages – the “Fire and Brimstone” period if you know what I mean. God was perceived as a vengeful and scary God by most followers of the faith. The Catholic view of salvation was filled with fear of eternal damnation. Julian’s revelations of God certainly went against the grain. The God she encountered in her visions was an all-loving, all-forgiving God who yearned for the return of all of his children – saints and sinners alike.
In The Revelations of Divine Love Julian shares with us the encounter she had with the Holy Trinity. While Julian shares much about the truth of God and the infinite love he has for all of creation, one of her revelations sung deeply to my heart – God has infinite blessings for those who turn to him in times of suffering. The Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, understands our human sufferings and he desires nothing more than for us to turn to him during our pain. The reward we will receive in return is greater than we could ever imagine.
Our Triune God desires that we endure our suffering with patience during our life on earth. Julian came to understand that we are more blessed when we are taken from our pain rather than having our pain being taken away from us. When we allow God to lift us up through our pain, through Jesus Christ, we allow ourselves to be taken from our pain. Let me elaborate on this thought by way of a little reflection.
Sea of Suffering Reflection
For a moment of time allow your mind to envision a body of water – a sea of your suffering. In it you sometimes feel like drowning and a desire to escape arises in your heart. You often find yourself crying out for dry land – wishing it would miraculously appear so you would be saved. All you can think about is surviving this ordeal. You do everything you can do to keep your head above water. Eventually, you cry out for rescue, hoping that someone will hear you. A flotation cushion approaches and you cling to it with all your might.
Then, all of the sudden a boat appears on the horizon. A sense of hope wells up in your heart. You thrash about in the water in an attempt to catch the caption’s attention. The boat comes closer, yet, you are still not sure the caption sees you so you yell and scream louder. The boat comes closer again and suddenly you realize that this is no ordinary boat – it is a lifeboat! A hero is coming to rescue you. As the lifeboat comes closer your heart fills with relief and you begin to rest on your flotation cushion. Then at last your hero arrives. He sees you are weak, too weak to lift yourself up in the lifeboat. The sea has been tough on you. So he steps out of the lifeboat, onto the water and he comes to you. He bends down and extends his hands and arms, gently lifting you up from your sea of suffering.
Your hero places you in his lifeboat. Offering you a soft blanket, water, food, and companionship your hero tends to your every need. His love for you is amazing, somehow familiar... Yet, you can't place the memory where you experienced this love before. You wonder if you had met him before. Then you catch a glimpse of the cushion you clung to while in the sea. It has the same insignia as your hero's boat – you realize it belongs to your hero. He smiles at you as you come to this understanding. Yes, his love is very familiar. Then you realize he was watching out for you all along.
As you rest you find yourself looking at the sea a little differently. The seagulls, the feel of the warm breeze as it crosses the ocean top, and the sun in the sky are oh so beautiful. How did you never see this before? So many times you stood at her shores, and yet, you never saw her beauty in this way.
Your hero gently guides your boat and the shore slowly appears. You begin to see your hero in a new way as he rows the boat to shore. He is more than he hero. He is kind, gentle, strong and most of all he is now your friend. You begin to row the boat together with your hero – your ores begin to move together in perfect unity. Ahhh, this friendship is also very familiar.
Shore is reached, part of you doesn’t want to get out of the boat. You want to remain with your hero. He takes your hand as he guides you out of the boat, whispering in your ear – “I will never leave you, I will always be your hero. I live inside your heart and you live inside mine."
Taking one last look at the sea you can finally marvel at its beauty. Somehow knowing that you will once again be called to return to her. Your increased faith warms your heart, knowing that when the sea calls you your hero will be there to rescue you again. Precious time alone with him, fully receiving his loving care, awaits.
Finding Our Hero
When we find ourselves in our sea of suffering we need a flotation cushion to cling to. Our flotation cushion is prayer and perseverance - especially contemplative prayer. This cushion belongs to our hero and he extends it to us freely. Yet, we must cling to it when we find ourselves in our sea of suffering. So often we ask God to take our suffering away, wishing that dry land would immediately appear. However, we would miss out on the boat ride with our hero! And worst of all, we would fail to take in the beauty of the sea.
When we fix ourselves on God while we are in our sea of suffering, acknowledging how our own sins contributed to this sea, goodness follows. God offers immense blessings and beauty when we are faithful to him during life’s struggles. Instead of asking that God take our pain away, God invites us to enter the sea where Jesus will rescue us. He knows the sea well.
Perhaps the mustard seed Jesus speaks of today's Gospel is the faith we carry in our heart that grows each time we survive the sea of suffering. With each journey our heart grows in love and understanding for our brothers, who like ourselves, must also enter the sea. Like our Psalm invites us into – let’s “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations” – to all the people on the shore. That's what Paul and Timothy did.
Passionate Love Meditation
If you are looking for a way to meditate on the Crucifix during your trials I invite you to practice Passionate Love Meditation. To me, it's a beautiful flotation cushion. This meditation came to me as I sat in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary one early morning. I like to use when I am lost in my own sea of suffering. Click here to visit my Blog page: Passionate Love Meditation
God bless all of you. See you next week Friday – Carolyn
Sacred Heart of Jesus – have mercy on us.
Father God – consume us.
Holy Spirit – enter into us.
Blessed Virgin Mary – pray for us.