Solidarity with Pain
Both Francis and Clare of Assisi lost and let go of all fear of suffering; all need for power, prestige, and possessions; any need for their small self to be important; and they came out the other side knowing something essential—who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says (Matthew 7:24).
Francis and Clare had an ability to really change and heal people, which is often the fruit of suffering and various forms of poverty, since the false self does not surrender without a fight to its death. If suffering is “whenever we are not in control” (my definition), then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments because we can share our power with God’s power (Romans 8:28).
Such a counterintuitive insight surely explains why these two medieval dropouts, Francis and Clare, tried to invite everyone into their happy run downward, to that place of “poverty” where all humanity finally dwells anyway. They voluntarily leapt into the very fire from which most of us are trying to escape, with total trust that Jesus’ way of the cross could not, and would not, be wrong. They trusted that Jesus’ way was the way of solidarity and communion with the larger world which is indeed passing away and dying, but always with great resistance. They turned such resistance into a proactive welcoming prayer instead. By God’s grace, they could trust the eventual passing of all things and where they are passing to. They did not wait for liberation later—after death—but grasped it here and now.
When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering, we will encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance, denial, and sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. I know that is very true for me. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. Pain is the rent we pay for being human, some say; but suffering is usually optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved pain as an act of total solidarity with all of the pain of the world. Reflection on this mystery of love can change your whole life.
Gateway to Silence:
Surrender to love.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 20-21.