After a week retreat with Fr. Giulio Mariani, PIME, we again focused on the “Spirituality of Suffering” with Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca, Regional Superior of the PIME community in Japan. It proved to be a timely course after a serious review of our lives and our Euntes journey during the retreat.
Fr. Ferruccio led us to the awareness of the reality of suffering in the world particularly of Japan’s context where suicide and abortion are very common. He also tackled the biblical perspectives of suffering where it explicate more on the possibility of suffering for the sake of God, finding hope in what seem to be hopeless situations and looking at the positive value in every suffering that remains a mystery. It is more of acceptance, endurance and faithfulness to God even in the midst of pain rather than asking why one has to suffer, as in the case of the accounts of Job, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Qoheleth, Psalm 44 and in the Gospels.
Suffering is one of the experiences and a fact of life that all of us share in common. It may be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Suffering is relative but real. We hate being asked about our suffering all the time. Most people suffer a lot because of the fear of death even of spiritual death which is more common. But facing and accepting the harsh realities of life in a positive way can help us grow and develop as persons. There are several sources of sufferings which a person may encounter such as : persecutions, laziness, bad decisions, facing the truth, anger, unfaithfulness, facing enemies, false accusations, spiritual desolation, divine silence, ignorance, world wildness, failures and limitations, loss of a love, sickness, pride, vanity, sensuality, fear and successes, etc.
The biggest challenge for a minister is to “listen” to the story of the sufferings of the people. One cannot truly love if he/she doesn’t know how to listen from the heart, God commanded “Shema Israel”.
We need to build a link, (to suffer with those we help), to help out of compassion and not only out of charity. One needs to have a profound “FAITH IN GOD”, a God who is interested in helping especially in those who are suffering, a God who would feel sorry because of the suffering of humanity.
But what image do we have of our God? A God of the Priestly tradition who is pleased with rituals? The Elhoistic God, a perfectionist one who always think about your sins? A Deuteronomy God who is concerned more about strict following of the Laws? Or a God of the Yahwists who considers you a co-creator, an intimate God who walks and speaks with the people, who accepts you with all your imperfections and brokenness? The church can be a “safe haven” and effective instrument of healing for the suffering people. But sometimes our church is no longer a symbol of salvation. It is often viewed as a church only for the good and the rich. How about the sinners and the poor?
Vatican II has been strong about changing the structures of the church. It’s time for it to open its walls and barriers and reach out to people, to understand the real situation of those who are suffering. To let them experience the love and happiness of a Trinitarian God. The Holy Spirit is the personification of joy in the Trinity, therefore God is joy. The Trinity is a symbol of sincerity, beauty and family (joy and harmony in relationships and togetherness). The Trinity is happy because they love each other; therefore God is making people happy. As ministers and members of the church how can we become a source of happiness for those who are suffering?