We in the western world are a circumference people, with little access to the centre. We live on the boundaries of our own lives, confusing edges with essence, too quickly claiming the superficial as substance. The superficial level of things is largely useless and leads us to do evil without knowing it. To plumb the depths and substance of things, even our sin, is to be led to God. Perhaps the greatest sin of our time is superficiality itself.
Maybe there was an earlier age when people had easy and natural access to their souls and openness to transcendent Spirit. If there was such an age, it must have consisted of people who were either loved very well at their centre or who suffered very much around the edges—probably both.
The path of prayer and love and the path of suffering seem to be the two Great Paths of transformation. Suffering seems to get our attention; love and prayer seem to get our heart and our passion.
Richard Rohr, adapted from Everything Belongs, pp. 13-15
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)Have you ever noticed the odd spiritual law that seems to govern us, that the more we are afflicted, the more honestly and (com)passionately we can pray for others—and its parallel, that the better things seem to be going for us, the harder it is to pray?
Perhaps this is why we have been given, in our various degrees, the gift of empathy, “the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being through consciousness rather than physicality.” (Wikipedia) But we have to be prepared to be open: we have to be prepared to see others as they are for themselves, and not as they might potentially serve our own needs.
The Principles of the Third Order of St. Francis state: “Members of The Third Order fight against all injustice in the name of Christ, in whom there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for in him all are one. Our chief object is to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus. This can only be achieved in a spirit of chastity, which sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfilment…” We are called, as Christians, to battle in prayer, as Ephesians 6 in particular explains—but we can only do so as long as we are pure in heart (Matthew 5:8) and keep ourselves from the lust (and here I mean economic, social, political lust as much as sexual) that views others as means to our own ends, and thus blinds us to the empathy that God has placed in the heart of each of us.
We are all sinners. But Christ died for each one of us, and so far as we love him, he will heal us. We have just to turn to him concealing nothing, and by his Holy Spirit he will restore us, giving us his own pure heart for our stone one, opening our blind eyes to see the brokenness of our sisters and brothers, opening our ears to hear their crying, and giving us his own Name in which to pray…