Father Clay died last weekend. I heard from other members of St. Stan’s and through the Facebook page and then email. And I took the week to feel the loss and think about it before I started writing.
I feel so grateful for what he gave us – for what he gave me in the moments I needed him most and in the in-between moments when I was figuring out who I am and how I want to show up in this world.
I felt, this week, moments of grief, where I was reliving the grief he helped me through, letting the pain come in, and gently letting it go again. He helped me reframe a deeply painful relationship, and I like the idea that he and my dad are both freely and painlessly basking in God’s love now. Without any earthly suffering.
I love this call to be “co-workers with God” in relieving suffering. It is a lens I try to look through for all hard decisions I make: how can I bring more truth and love to the world? How can I use this abundance, my time, my voice, my vote, to relieve suffering?
As Father Clay would say, Smile, God Loves You.
Jesus’ Suffering and Death
God is responsible for a universe in which there is suffering. That doesn’t mean that God is responsible for all of the suffering that accompanies freedom, nor does it mean that God wants suffering. It seems to me that suffering is the price that is paid in order to have freedom and love. I see that as a painful but wonderful bargain.
The reign of God calls us to be co-workers with God in relieving suffering. Jesus not only proclaimed the reign of God, he lived it. Notice how much of Jesus’ life was devoted to relieving suffering. He healed people who had various kinds of physical disease. He cast out demons. I think what this meant was that he was healing people with mental and emotional illness. He healed people with the painful wounds of sin. I think of forgiving as healing the wounds of sin. He confronted the religious leaders who laid heavy burdens on people who were already burdened. Jesus not only did acts of kindness but also challenged the unjust structure.
Think of the privilege of being invited to be co-workers with God in relieving sufferings. Perhaps in the big picture (though this may sound strange), God needs us to work with him in the evolving of our world.
This is a vocation for everyone. It differs for people according to their various talents and position in society and church. The call is for everyone, and not just to tackle big projects, though they are valuable and necessary. It can be as seemingly small as holding a child who is sick. It can be taking a meal to a neighbor who has lost a loved one. It can be listening with compassion and understanding. It can be as simple as a smile.
Let us each ponder how we are going to be partners with God. As we relieve the pain of others, our own inner spirit is blossoming. What a vocation! What a vocation for everyone!
Excerpted from “The Jesus Story” by Father John Clay in Mysterious Love, (c) 2015