Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a reflection on Pope Francis’ monthly prayer intention for all who suffer.
Pope Francis asks that we join him in praying: That all those who suffer may find their way in life, allowing themselves to be touched by the Heart of Jesus.
The photo calls to mind the words from the Gospel according to St. Luke saying, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.” There is the cup held loosely in hand, not gripped tightly, yet not cast away. This is the cup of suffering which we are called to accept if it is God’s will for us. Those who suffer are open to God’s healing touch which will take the cup of suffering from them, but at the same time they pray to have the strength to grasp the cup and endure with faith should that be God’s will.
How does this relate to the hope of being touched by the Heart of Jesus? Bishop Donald Hying tells us, “In devotion to the Sacred Heart one draws near to the tender mercy and forgiveness of the Lord. Poetically, the heart is a symbol of the human center—our emotions, loves, passions, desires, the force of the will. In his book The Sacred Heart of the World, David Richo explains: ‘The heart is the capacity to open.. . . . It contains our ability to reach out so it is the antidote to despair.’”
So what hope is available even to those in the deepest place of suffering? Hope springs from that tender mercy of Jesus. Hope springs from the fact that even our human heart can be healed and opened and no one need dwell in despair. Our prayer needs to not only address the suffering, but the need for faith. It is faith in this loving, merciful, healing God that brings the heart back to health, back to life and out of suffering and darkness.
When we wonder why we must shoulder this cross, or how to carry the weight of some present cross, perhaps we can ponder this story.
Brenda was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. Well, she got to a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens.
So, here she is on a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn’t there. With her sight now blurry, she was desperate. How could she safely navigate without seeing clearly? She began to pray asking the Lord to help her find it. When she got to the top, she sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for the others to make it up the face of the cliff. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of that Bible verse that says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help.” She thought, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.”
On reaching the bottom again, there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” Well, that would be startling enough, but do you know how the new climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it. Brenda told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer and the contact lens, he drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, “Lord, I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”
I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, “God, I don’t know why you want me to carry this suffering. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But, if you want me to carry it, I will.” God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Apparently this is a true story. Elisabeth Elliot published the story above in her 1995 book, “Keep A Quiet Heart” (Servant Publications, Ann Arbor Michigan) as told to her from Brenda Foltz of Princeton, Minnesota. Photos: Sister Catherine Glim’s 100th birthday