Today is the eighth anniversary of the accident which caused my injury. There is not a lot to be said that I haven’t said already. I share this “feast day” with the great 16th century mystic, St. John of the Cross. This writing from a spiritual Canticle of his sums up what I have learned over the course of the last eight years:
“[T]he apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God…Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much [interior and exterior] suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there is consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.
Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth – to know what is beyond knowable, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is the “narrow gate” through which we must travel in order to merit eternal life. Many avoid this gate because it is lined with fire and we inevitably get burned, but we do not travel alone. In his latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict speaks of Christ the true shepherd in this way:
“The true shepherd is one who knows even the path that passes through the valley of death; one who walks with me even on the path of final solitude, where no one can accompany me, guiding me through: he himself has walked this path, he has descended into the kingdom of death, he has conquered death, and he has returned to accompany us now and to give us the certainty that, together with him, we can find a way through.”
We are not alone in our sufferings. Indeed, when we suffer we are even closer to the Redeemer through the power of the Cross.
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 16:24-25)
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I a weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinth 12:10)
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 1:6-7)
“To offer myself as a victim of Divine love is not to offer myself to sweetness, to consolation, but to every anquish, every bitterness; for love lives only by sacrifice, and the more the soul wills to be surrendered to love, the more must she be surrendered to suffering.” ~St. Therese of Lisuix
Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who our true friend is.” ~St. Maria Faustina
This is not, by the way, to imply that my life with a disability is a downer, filled with sufferings. My life is quite enjoyable and I am surrounded by love and affection. But I have a greater appreciation for what it means to suffer, to deny your self, your ego and your emotions and embrace the crosses, big and small, of of daily life.