to accept the other who suffers means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, consolation, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love. (38)
In the next paragraph he offers some great questions for reflection:
To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself. Yet once again the question arises: are we capable of this? Is the other important enough to warrant my becoming, on his account, a person who suffers? Does truth matter to me enough to make suffering worthwhile? Is the promise of love so great that it justifies the gift of myself? (39)
This is what it mean to “lay down one’s life” for a friend, to love as Christ loves through total self giving. This is the key to authentic human love, the secret to a lasting marriage, the preservation of the family and the growth of a culture of life. To love in this way means to share in each others’ joys and sufferings – for better or worse. The question is, can we handle it?