The Gospel was first heard by people who were longing and thirsty, who were poor and oppressed in one sense or another. They knew their need and their emptiness. So we must go to the same place within ourselves to hear the Gospel. We must find the rejected and fearful parts within each of us and try to live there, if life has not yet put us there. That should allow us a deeper communion with the oppressed of the world, who are by far the majority of the human race since the beginnings of humanity.
If we wish to enter more deeply into this mystery of redemptive suffering—which also means somehow entering more deeply into the heart of God—we have to ask God to allow us to feel some of their pain and loneliness, not just to know it intellectually. It is what we feel that we finally act on. Knowing is often just that, and nothing more.
Richard Rohr, adapted from Job and the Mystery of Suffering, p. 15
In many ways, this passage from Richard Rohr follows on from what I was saying the other day. The identification I spoke of there, that enables our prayers to be truly intercession, is precisely what Rohr so memorably describes as asking “God to allow us to feel some of their pain and loneliness, not just to know it intellectually.”
We cannot know, intellectually, how to pray (see Romans 8:26,27): our minds simply are not equipped for understanding on that level. We cannot know the full dimensions of the needs for which we pray, and we cannot begin to understand how God may answer (Romans 11:34). But we can feel. We can weep. Our hearts, however hardened, can be broken for the creation that (Romans 8:22,23) cries out in pain and longing, and for all our suffering fellow-creatures, human and otherwise.
May we be broken ourselves, so that the crucified and risen Christ may find in us channels for his grace, his mercy, to bring healing and freedom, for “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)