Responding to the Suffering we see with Jesus
“Everything you need is in the room.” “Trust the process.” These are the two sentences I have lived and learned with for the past 12 months of Chaplaincy training. Much of our work with hospital patients is entering a room without knowing a patient or what brought them to the hospital. All we have is the person in the room, our observation skills interpreted by our senses, and a willingness to be still, to listen to what is said and unsaid with an open heart and mind. Everyone has a story and the telling often opens a door to Sacred Space.
“Everything you need is in the room.” “Trust the process.” Hasn’t Jesus been saying the same thing throughout this Easter season? When He said “Mary” to Magdalene in the garden and when He acted clueless with the two men walking to Emmaus, wasn’t He seeing their pain and responding? Healing begins with presence and intentional listening. In every encounter, Jesus is present. He listens with all His senses and His heart. He sees where the pain is and then He waits for an invitation. “What would you have me do?” Can’t you hear Him thinking, “Please ask me. Open your heart so I can enter.” Pretending to be journeying beyond Emmaus was a brilliant way to give the sorrow-dulled minds of the two men time to step out of their analyzing and allow their hearts to remember hospitality and realize how much they were enjoying Jesus’s presence.
Jesus has as many ways of touching people as there are people in pain. Sometimes, as with Mary Magdalene and Thomas, Jesus is so conscious of their paralyzing suffering that He speaks it for them. Their desperate invitation to Him, their lament is so intimate and humble there is no membrane dividing them from Jesus’s compassion.
Jesus trusted the process. He models for us how we are to follow Him. Our yes, our trust, allows Him to continue His mission of compassion and healing. Chaplaincy is the path I was led to but everyone has a path. Even when we don’t know what it is or where we are going, Jesus does. When our heart burns with desire like the men on the Emmaus road, He is here with us. “Seeing God means being ready to see him in unexpected people, places and ways. It means living with our eyes and our hearts open. Because wherever you are, there is your Emmaus.” James Martin, S.J.
That desire opens us to see and hear as Jesus sees and hears. Let’s try something for a moment. How often have we heard someone say, “I’m fine” in a brittle, higher than usual pitch, and we intuitively know they aren’t. Step into Imaginative prayer, see through Jesus’s eyes. Reflect on that incident you are remembering. That intuition you have is a grace. Our memories in these moments are the whisper of the Spirit. They are prayers because the Spirit is showing us something important. You and Jesus notice some tears or a stiff posture. Jesus pauses or better, sits down, hands in His lap, looking gently and calmly at the person and repeats as a statement, “You’re fine.” Then He waits quietly, as long as it takes, but likely not for long. “No, I’m not fine…I’m a mess…” and all the pain under those words pours out. Here in the depths of sadness and suffering, Jesus can bring light and healing. This isn’t a teaching, analytical moment. That might come later. This is compassionate heart space…Sacred Space. This is where healing happens. Here is where Jesus longs to be and where He is in every opportunity we offer Him.
In prayer, in our memories, and in our everyday lives we encounter people in pain. When we can’t bear the thought of being far from Jesus, we are drawn into His wounded heart. It is there we are able to see and respond with God. It is there we can plumb the depths of suffering to be able to walk through it with them. Jesus is with us as we become a companion on their journey. We aren’t fixing anything. That’s not our role. Whatever our calling, we are intentionally with and for others in the space they find themselves. Here the heart understands unbounded by words.
Ascension Thursday is this week. In scripture we see Jesus working to the very last moment to give His disciples the strength to keep moving forward. He tells them,
“ I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:16-21.
As much as Jesus wanted to return to His Father, my heart aches for Him. Saying goodbye, letting go is a suffering we all know too well.
“Everything you need is in the room.” “Trust the process.” Jesus is with you.
Pray with The Merton Prayer, a prayer of trust.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
“The Merton Prayer” from Thoughts in Solitude
Photo on Unsplash by National Cancer Institute