Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heaven knows

I was praying the First Sorrowful Mystery yesterday and found myself suddenly tearing up. Jesus' agony brought to mind an unresolved hurt in my life.

As I kept praying, I was reminded how painful Jesus' life was. He came from heaven, where he had all joy and no pain, so that he could enter time and immediately experience discomfort and privation. From there, His life on Earth continously opened up into more and more pain, until He died.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that He didn't really feel the pain completely, because he could see the "joy set before Him." I have to remind myself that He really did feel the pain completely. He had to, otherwise it would have been worthless.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen used to quote C.S. Lewis: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, He shouts to us in our pain ..."

It never ceases to fascinate me how comforting it is to realize that, even if my own pain is seemingly unresolvable, I can take real comfort in knowing that Christ knows what it is like.

G.K. Chesterton, at the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, connected this strange comfort with the ending of the Book of Job, where Job is assuaged even though God only answers his question with more questions. He had addressed the same issue earlier in his "Introduction to the Book of Job," which was published exactly one hundred years ago. In that essay, Chesterton wrote, "The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."

I would like solutions. I would like everything in my life to be wrapped up neatly, with no loose ends, nothing left unsaid, and no one able to wound me without apologizing from the heart.

But if I am going to sometimes feel pain that cannot be resolved, it helps to think about the riddle God offers in place of a solution to pain. As Chesterton wrote in The Man Who Was Thursday, it is, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"