From the darkness of prison

Are you the one who is to come
or should we look for another?
Luke 7: 19

 In the darkness of his prison cell John the Baptist must have wondered whether his mission was in vain. So he sends two disciples to Jesus to ask him if he is the promised one.

Jesus first continues to heal, to expel demons, and bring good news to the poor. Then he tells John’s disciples to share what they have seen and heard. He is telling them to see what he, the Lord of love and justice, is doing.

In the darkness, there is light.

This does not mean that all will be healed and all will be light.

So often we seek the light, the consolation, the easy life. But as a priest once asked me during a retreat, “Are you seeking the consolation of God or the God of consolation?”

Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, the Carmelite reformer and doctor of the church, who wrote incredible love poems. But he wrote them in the darkness of a prison cell where he was held by non-reformed Carmelites. In the darkness and the suffering – including being flogged – he sought God and found the presence of God.

He would not deny the sufferings of the world. But he wrote,

“If only people would understand how impossible it is to reach God’s riches and wisdom except by passing through the thicket of toil and suffering….

“For the gate to the riches of God’s wisdom is the Cross; many desire the consoling joy to which the Cross leads, but few desire the Cross itself.”

Does this mean we seek to suffer? Hardly. For we have a God who became flesh and healed the sick and suffering.

But it does mean that we cannot deny the suffering present in this world, we cannot seek for ourselves a suffering-free existence. I believe that if we try to make out lives totally free from pain and suffering we will not see the pain and suffering of others and, worse, our actions to live an easy life will bring hardships on others.

And so Jesus did not come to live an easy life but to heal the sick. This eventually brought him to the Cross. But through the Cross we come to be raised up.

Today may we see the suffering of our world and be in solidarity with those who suffer. But may we also see the healing power of God active in our world – and seek to be a part of that love for others, especially those who suffer.

Perhaps we will not see this from prison cells as John the Baptist and John of the Cross did – but we cannot fail to see the pain – and the promise –  if we really seek the God of consolation and not merely the consolation of God.



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