Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My cup of Compassion

I am receiving the daily lectionary readings via email and the heading for today said: "Tuesday's readings about suffering." (Job 5: 8-27,Psalm 77, 1 Peter 3:8)

My first thought was  - really?  I don't want to go there.  Yes, avoidance of suffering is probably built in to our DNA.  But unfortunately,  awareness and acceptance of suffering is part of the journey to wholeness.

The first reading is from Job and it is his friend Eliazer who is instructing him about how God is disciplining him in his suffering.  And he represents all of us with our answers for the suffering of others.  I have heard preachers talk about how suffering as the refiner's fire and it is reforming us.  And maybe there is truth to this.  However, the danger we have in facing the suffering of others is our certitude, our instruction  and our answers to the mystery of why this bad thing is happening.   And then when we ourselves go through our times of suffering we can end up feeling isolated and even ashamed because we brought this on ourselves or we are not being strong enough.  What I continue to know is that often our "answers" to the "why" questions about suffering are a dead end street.

We do suffer - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  And we follow Jesus who walked into the garden of Gethsemane and came out of it choosing to suffer.  And the only "answer" that makes sense to me is found in 1 Peter 3:8: "Finally, all of us have unity of spirit, sympath, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind."  God does not want us to suffer alone - but be community with one another in love and in hope. The only answer to the mystery of suffering is compassion.

In her book "The Cup of Life" Joyce Rupp tells this story:
"One Thursday when I was visiting at Kavanaugh House, a residence for terminally ill persons, I met a woman named Agnes.  She was sitting by the bedside of her husband, Al, who had a brain tumor.  The next Thursday I again found Agnes faithfully sitting there by Al.  This time she told me about Marian, a woman whose husband had died at Kavanaugh House the week before.  Agnes only knew Marian from a few conversations they had before Marian's husband died.  This new widow understood what Agnest was going through and wanted to support her.  Sje began calling Agnes each evening to see how she was coping.  Agnes told me how much the phone calls helped her to get through each day.  As the weeks unfolded, I saw how one woman, in the midst of  her own loss, reached out in compassion to another who was in pain.  Marian couldn't "do" much for Agnes by changing her situation but she helped greatly with her caring presence. "

Jack Kornfield writes about the truly loving person breathing in the pain of the world and breathing out compassion.  And so today  I look forward to going to the zoo with Fred and Trixie and other friends to remember Lisa who would be 37 years old today.  May we come together and breathe in the pain of grief and breathe out the love of God - TOGETHER. And in this act  - surprisingly - there will be a special kind of joy. Macrina Wiederkehr wrote: "The most helpful discovery of today has been that right in the midst of my sorrows there is always room for joy.  Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house."

This is a world of joy And  suffering and God wants us to not be afraid to stand with those who are in need of our presence and our love.    My prayer for myself is that I will allow God to break through my resistance and fill me with his heart of love and embrace the cup of compassion.

Here is a wonderful prayer by Joyce Rupp

My cup of compassion
holds tears of the world,
it overflows with sorrow,
struggles, and sadness,

my cup of compassion 
hold the cries of childre,
unfed, unloved, unsheltered, 
uneducated, unwanted.

my cup of compassion
holds the creams of war,
the tortured, slain,
the raped , the disabled.

my cup of compassion
holds the bruised and battered,
victims of incest and abuse,
gang wars, violent crimes

my cup of compassion
holds the voice of silent one,
the mentally ill,
illegal immigrants,
the unborn, the homeless.

my cup of compassion 
holds the emptiness of the poor,
the searing pain of racism,
the impotency of injustice,

my cup of compassion
holds the heartache of loss,
the sigh of the dying,
the sting of the divorced.

my cup of compassion
holds the agony of the earth,
species terminated,
air polluted,
land destroyed
rivers with refuse.

my cup of compassion
I hold it to my heart 
where the Divine dwells,
where love is stronger
than death and disaster.

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