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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Suffering Reveals Love

Classes are officially done for the semester, and indeed I'm joyful, but not for a reason you might expect.

I received a HUGE grace today. As you know, it's been a rough Advent, but God is merciful and things are working out according to His plan; and today, God graced me with some understanding. He has taught me a lesson I could not have learned in any other way.

On Thursday evening, I turned in my Spirituality paper, knowing that I was turning in a bad product but resigned to this fate; I have never worked so hard to produce such a piece of crap. And no, it's not false humility. I know a bad paper when I write one. And today in class, during the lecture I recognized several errors that are in my paper. I am very embarassed, but the deed is done.

That's when God's grace entered my morning. Just before Mass, the professor was lecturing on the topic of suffering; a big point of this lecture is that suffering reveals love.

Indeed.

And that's when my eyes were opened. None of what was discussed was new to me; I'd read the course notes, I've read Salvifici Doloros, and I knew the subject matter. It makes sense to me. But today, I was fully convicted of the truth.

Suddenly the reason for Mom's suffering was revealed; because suffering reveals love. I have been so worried about her, a couple weeks ago I thought Mom was going to die and we'd be planning her funeral. And that's when I had to recognize that I was suffering, too; and had been all along. Her suffering has revealed a great deal of love, both of my love for her and our family's love for her. She was never without company. She was never without prayers. She was never alone in her suffering, one way or another. Mom KNOWS she is loved, and she dearly needed that lesson in her life.

Her suffering was ALSO redemptive in that it unified our family in different ways, to include our extended family.

I was the one who called so that she would receive the Sacrament of the Sick; and when I learned that the priest had visited her and had greatly lifted her spirits, I felt a great deal of peace and relief. And that was another lesson; that sacrament does a lot more than just touch the one who is sick. The grace affects those who love that person. And that grace is very healing.

That was my first lesson this morning, then we went to Mass. God wasn't done with me, though. Apparently Mass was an opportunity to recover from the morning revelations, but in the afternoon, the floodgates of grace were opened again.

The bad paper I turned in has been on my mind, especially as the lecture and text revealed my omissions and other errors in connections or definitions. The dream of the failing grade is seeming more and more like reality. And I wondered what that paper had to do with all of this; why was I not able to make the connections? Why was I not able to write a decent paper.

And that's when it hit me; I couldn't write it because I was LIVING the subject matter, therefore, I couldn't see it.

Why couldn't I see it?

Because I was suffering badly; I had rejected the cross God was giving me. God brought suffering into my family's life for a reason, and whenever I began to ask those ever-important questions, I decided the timing was wrong and tried to escape. When at Mass the last couple Sundays, I was alternately planning a funeral and questioning why Mom was suffering. And then I decided I was "distracted" and needed to pay attention to the liturgy.

Today, I realized that those "distractions" were actually God inviting me to dialogue; He was INVITING me to address my questions to Him, right there, in person. And I refused to engage; I did not recognize the action of the consolation of the Holy Spirit. God was ready to answer my questions, but I did not take the time to ask. As soon as Mass was done, I was bolting home to go work on my paper. I was thinking about Mom and distracted by that, and thought that was the reason I was struggling.

NO! That wasn't the reason! But because I didn't take the time with God, I did not see that the experience of suffering was what the paper was all about! Every single connection I wanted to make was being lived out, although the conclusion was today. It was the Mass that was drawing me to ask the questions I needed answered so desperately; and it was the Mass that gave me the grace today to see the big picture.

But I was asking the wrong questions. I was praying "Thy will be done" all the while I was focusing on MY will and rejecting the grace God had waiting for me.

As all of this was crashing down on me, I realized that my sin was in not trusting God, not listening to God and not obeying God. And through this gift of self-awareness, I was lead to a conversion experience today through true repentance. And I am humbled; I see that I deserve a poor grade on my paper. Not because I didn't work hard, for I did, but rather because my poor result came from my willful distrust of God.

All of these graces come through the sacraments, especially through Holy Communion. God did not allow me to see the entire truth until I was ready, and I could only be ready through union with Him. The biggest and most puzzling pieces of this revelation today came after Mass - this is very revealing in and of itself.

Everything we did in class this semester has culminated in this wonderful lesson from God. As painful as it is, I am so joyful to be given this grace. I am joyful to be chastized and shown my errors. And it's so clear; Mom's suffering, my suffering in union with her, even suffering badly, is proleptic of the Paschal Mystery. I was only able to understand it through the participation of the Paschal Mystery, and this lesson reveals the greatest thing of all; God's mercy and love.

Confronted with that brought me to a moment of conversion and an experience of true humility; both because I could see my errors, and because God was so merciful as to reveal this to me in the context that he did. Suffering indeed reveals love, and there is no way to truly know God without this experience.

Thank you, God.

7 comments:

Angela Messenger said...

Wow! Very edifying!

Vianney33 said...

I came across this blog a couple of weeks ago when Googling Archbishop Nienstedt's name for local reaction to his latest column in the Catholic Spirit. As I was reading this blog, the person mentioned how she was working on a paper for her Old Testament class. I did not think much of it until she also mentioned she was working on a paper for Catholic Spirituality. I thought, what a coincidence, so was I, and having the same struggles I might add. I went back to the blog a couple days later and the classes were metnioned again. Being one of sharp mind like Sherlock Holmes, I put two and two together and realised we are in the same class in Minneapolis.
I asked a couple of people in class yesterday if they blogged and they said no. Then I thought, perhaps she would rather remain nameless so I stopped asking.
Anyway, I enjoy your blog, especially this last entry about suffering. I can relate to how God has revealed truth to you through the courses. I have had similar experiences. In my case it wasn't suffering, although I found it edifying to know suffering includes that which happenes due to struggling with papers. My lesson, if you will, involved humility, or should I say, lack there of. It is amazing how much growth has taken place spiritually as a result of the IPT program. In my case I wish there was an equal amount of intellectual growth.
Since finding the blog I have been praying for you and your mother and will continue to do so.
God Bless,
Eric

Adoro te Devote said...

Eric!

Oh, I am SO BUSTED! I knew this day would come. You're sworn to secrecy. :-)

Wasn't that class incredible? It wasn't the first real connection I made to it; all semester has been so enlightening, leading to spiritual lessons I would not have learned were it not for the lectures and papers.

And I know you and I aren't the only ones who feel this way about this class. What a gift. (An expensive one, though...)

As far as intellectual growth...it's there, really. You just haven't discovered it yet but when you do, it'll knock you off your feet. :-)

Thank you for your prayers for us. That means a lot to me.

God bless!

Susie said...

I liked this line, Adoro.

"Suffering indeed reveals love, and there is no way to truly know God without this experience."

We seem to be on the "same page" although I'm not writing papers, just blogging sporadically.

Did you see TJ and PD on the Journey Home? That's what prompted my latest post on suffering. I am just grateful to be in the Catholic Church, where suffering is not anathema! But to be embraced and united with our Lord's and our Lady of Sorrows, too, for the poor souls and for others' salvation.

PAX,
susie

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: This is a profoundly spiritual post. I don't think any of us really get "theology" until we make some personal connection to it to move it beyond an abstract into lived reality.

Adoro te Devote said...

Susie ~ I did see them both, and sent TJ and email. They were both incredible. He actually sent me a book for class and did write a note in it for me. What a gift, both because of the book, and because this brother in Christ will remain there every time I open the book. And his wife, D. just beautiful. Because of her, I'm reading "Imitation of Christ."

I'm so grateful to be in the Catholic Church, too. Profoundly grateful, as you say.

Cathy ~ That's so true. We can't "get" theology until we're ready for it. That's why there's a spiritual component. We need a certain preparation (which God handles), we get into the classes, and there He takes us to the next level. Intellectual knowledge is great, but if it's divorced from the interior...well, it makes no sense.

You know....if you ever want to go back to school to overcome that dissident crap you received for so many years, I can make a recommendation....you'd really get a lot out of this......

Registration is due in April...

Hidden One said...

Angela Messenger phrased the gist of my comment better than I could any other way.

God bless you Adoro. I'm praying for you, as always.