Friday, November 24, 2006

When hearts are breaking…

“The Devil attacks parents through their children.” Somebody made this comment recently and, whereas I agreed with it at the time, I’ve done some more thinking since then.

It seems to me that those people who are good, loving, individuals are, in a very real sense, more finely tuned than those who are not. Of course, the politically correct will not agree with me on this one and will point out those who do evil as being programmed because of something that happened to them whilst eating their Cornflakes or polishing their shoes…that might or might not be correct. It seems to me, however, that people who are good are tuned towards goodness and towards loving and being loved, towards sensitivity, empathy, kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. That is why, when bad things happen to good people, it comes as a bombshell and often they are unsure how to cope. Being kind, they are unprepared for cruelty. Committed to relieving pain, they are unable to stand by and watch suffering that is inflicted for no reason. Loving, they do not understand absence of love.

It seems to me that, in order to be a good parent, extraordinary heroism is required. Children bring joy, but also suffering. There are the long nights when a little one’s cough keeps Mum and Dad awake, wondering if it’s more serious than a cold. There are the squabbles at school that cause little Johnny or Jane to come home tearful and complaining that he or she is “never going to go back to that horrible place”… sound familiar?

Throughout history, parents have been made to suffer by being forced to watch their children suffer gratuitous violence…and people across the world shudder in horror because the perpetrators are doing something that is so unnatural, so contrary to all that is loving, so contrary to everything that humanity instinctively regards as sacred.

That is why, it seems to me, that when the Devil acts, he does so by attacking good people through their greatest point of vulnerability: their ability to love. That is where he can do the greatest amount of damage and inflict the greatest amount of pain.

Yet, he also fails in his determination to destroy. No matter how hard he tries, someone has been there before. Good people might feel that their hearts are being broken, but, through faith, they are being broken open. Even the worst of all possible scenarios can be turned to something good.

I look at the Cross. Mary must have seen her innocent son and thought of him as a helpless tiny baby, when she could protect him and defend him with her life. Yet, on Calvary, she could do nothing except be there. Her heart must have been breaking. It couldn’t have been otherwise. To hear Jesus complaining of thirst must have nearly torn her apart. To be given John as her son instead of the Jesus whom she wanted was a poor second. However deep our pain and suffering might be, Mary has already been there.

In spite of the resurrection, the life of Mary was changed forever. Nothing could ever eliminate all that she had seen and experienced. The sword that pierced her heart couldn’t have struck more deeply. Yet, look at what happened. She became, for billions of people afterwards, their role model and support, the one to whom they could turn when they needed a shoulder on which to shed their tears or a hug of encouragement and love.

The Devil might attack parents through their children, but he doesn’t have to succeed in destroying them. However painful it might be, they are being given an opportunity to become parents, not only to their own children, but to other people’s who are in need of their love and understanding. God is able to turn even the deepest agony into an opportunity for even greater feats of love. To make sure of that, he’s even given his own mother to make sure that we are not alone and unsupported. That is why Jesus, on the Cross, gave us Mary. He knew we’d need her when our hearts are breaking…

God bless,
Sr. Janet