On Sunday, our lectionary texts take us to a conversation on suffering in Mark’s gospel. As I have mentioned before in sermons (and probably will again), Richard Rohr, is a Franciscan friar and spiritual writer whose words speak to my soul these days. Here are some of Rohr’s thoughts on suffering; hopefully they will speak to you as well. It is much easier to appreciate Jesus’ resurrection than his painful crucifixion. Yet, Mark’s Gospel, written around 65 CE, focuses on Jesus’ “suffering servanthood.” Christians believe that we are “saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” The key is to put both together. We need to deeply trust and allow both our own dyings and our own resurrections, just as much as Jesus did! This is the full pattern of transformation. If we trust both, we are indestructible. That is how Jesus “saves” us from meaninglessness, narcissism, cynicism, hatred, and violence—which is indeed death.
God is Light, yet this full light is hidden in darkness (John 1:5) so only the sincere seeker finds it. It seems we all must go into darkness to see the light, which is counter-intuitive for the ego. We resisted this language of “descent” and overwhelmingly made Christianity into a religion of “ascent,” where Jesus became a self-help “savior” instead of a profound wisdom-guide who really transforms our minds and hearts. In recent centuries, reason, medicine, technology, and efficiency have allowed many modern, middle- and upper-class people to rather “successfully” avoid the normal and ordinary “path of the fall.” Yet the perennial and mature tradition of religions, and even the modern addiction recovery movement, believes that growth comes through some form of “falling upward,” not climbing upward, which is all about ego.
Many of the happiest and most authentic people I know, love a God who walks with crucified people and thus reveals and “redeems” their plight as God’s own. For them, God is not observing human suffering from a distance but is somehow in human suffering with us and for us. Such a God includes our suffering in the co-redemption of the world, as “all creation groans in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8:22).
Is this possible? Could it be true that we “make up in our bodies all that still has to be undergone for the sake of the Whole Body” (Colossians 1:24)? Are we somehow partners with the divine? Of course, we are! In fact, I think that is the whole point. The mystic knows there is only one suffering and we all participate in it together: the eternal suffering love of God.
Jesus takes on our suffering, bears it, and moves through it to resurrection. This is “the paschal mystery.” We too can follow this path, actively joining God’s loving solidarity with all suffering since the foundation of the world. Jesus asks us to follow, by trusting and allowing this risky but revealing journey. If God is indeed Infinite Love, then humans and all of creation are Infinite Becoming (which is the core meaning of “divinization” or theosis, the process of salvation).
Perhaps heaven is not seeing God for all eternity, but seeing like and with God for all eternity.
Grace and Peace—Pastor Micki