Friday, July 8, 2011


Yesterday I had to go to a lab and have some blood drawn.  Among others sitting in the waiting room with me were an elderly woman and her daughter, also an older woman.  The frail mother was bracing herself from the cold of the air-conditioning, wearing a sleeveless blouse, and the daughter was tersely informing her that no one else was cold, that she was the only one who was cold.  Meanwhile, I was freezing too.    

I saw the old woman shrink down in her seat, and I wondered, does this daughter have no compassion?  Could she not put her arms around her mother to warm her?

When her name was eventually called, the daughter sprang up and strode across the room toward the phlebotomist as her mother raised herself up with the aid of a walker over which she was bent at an almost perfect 90 degree angle.  Apologizing to me as I drew in my legs for her to pass, she rolled forth in the path left behind her daughter. 

Apologizing… not excusing herself as she would if her daughter had not over time browbeat her into the mindset that she must be sorry for the inconveniences she causes. 

Admittedly, I don’t know their story, but it is easy to imagine such callousness from someone who has never suffered infirmity to a debilitating extent herself.  And this is in some part what our Lord can do with suffering for us.  I mean, for those of us who have suffered in this manner, we have been given a way into compassion.  That is, into the heart of God that suffers for our suffering and that looks down upon each of us with eyes that penetrate the depths of our experience. 

Through our own portion and share in such suffering, our recognition of others’ sufferings and comprehension of their pains, we enter more fully into the wholeness of the humanity exemplified to us in and through Christ.  We enter more fully into the life of Christ and thus are converted evermore fully to His holy image.  And indeed, we see His image in those around us who suffer, and are compelled to console Him when we see it.

That is, when we witness such a scene, we are compelled to think immediately of Jesus and His suffering, and are reminded of His very presence in this person whom we see suffering.  We are compelled to apologize to Him for the mistreatment of the weak by the strong and to pray for conversion in the hearts of those who do not understand what they are doing in callousness. 

And so, once more, it is a matter of God drawing us to Himself and shaping us once more in His own image that is the good of suffering.  Though we may not be grateful for the pain itself, the fruits that it brings are ripe when we find that we have been endowed with the grace of compassion.    

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