“Sing out, heavens, and rejoice, earth, break forth into song, you mountains, for the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted. But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” ~Isaiah 49:13-15
Suffering and tenderness—words that seem to beat against each other in a dichotomy of emotions. In reality, the person of Jesus Christ breaks down the barriers that our feeble minds tend to put up in opposition to seemingly contradictory phrases. Isn’t it Christ who said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25)?
In a world in which the concept of suffering is often viewed in terms of punishment, we tend to put limits on the mercy of God. In so doing, we fail to see God as Comforter and Mother and instead project our affliction back unto God. We forget that our God is a God of tender, loving mercy. So often in my own life I have dwelt on physical & spiritual pain, deep wounds, the anguishes of bitterness & resentments, and memories that hurt. In holding onto these things, we close ourselves off to the embrace of the Father. We fail to see the God who would suffer and die for us and, unfortunately, we give into forsakenness. And because we give into this forsakenness, we forget that we are loved & loveable and, in turn, worthy of the tender embrace of God.
Recently, I yielded to these temptations. Despair is at the bottom of a deep dark ocean, but I discovered that God’s mercy is waiting in those depths. At the height my desolation, I went to a votive Mass to the Sacred Heart, in which the priest gave a homily on the tenderness of the heart of the Father. I realized that I had dwelt so much on the wounds that I had closed myself off to the tender mercy of God.
Since I have arrived in my apostolate, this same priest—a very holy and devote soul— has offered prayers for me daily, by name. He became a great support for me in my trials and offered moments of clarity and understanding. In a form only known to him, I shared with him my afflictions. A few days after the above homily, this Father Logan was rushed to the hospital with various complications. With my Sisters, we visited him in the hospital and prayed the chaplet of Divine Mercy with him. During the chaplet, Father Logan looked at me with such intense tenderness. I felt like I was being gazed upon by the suffering Christ on the Cross. His eyes said, “This is for you. If I, who am His priest, can suffer to show you what mercy is, how much more has Jesus done so for you?” Father Logan died the next day.
My desperate plea was not only heard, the message of the Passion—tender love expressed as mercy—unfolded in my very presence through the instrument of Fr. Logan. His redemptive suffering showed me the tenderness of a God who does not forsake, but shows mercy to his afflicted by taking on suffering and redeeming it.
- Sister M. Clementia, FSGM