What does it mean for a Christian in fear of their life in Iraq, a Syrian Christian bombed out of home and church or a child whose whose family has been blown to bits in Gaza or somebody with the Ebola virus, to hear those words of Paul, ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?’. Would they find comfort in a pain beyond words, in a loss we can only vaguely acknowledge.
This is where pious platitudes and sentimental religion collapse, this is the point where the Christ of salvation loses his clothes and church finery, moves out of a safe sacramental world we create and becomes the bloodied Christ of the cross. The one who cries ‘ father forgive, they know not what they do!'.This is the point where the raw love of God remains our hope!
We are all complicit in the savagery of this world, we in the West have it so easy, but that cannot last. If we follow the Lord the cross is ours to carry and transformation comes through bearing one another’s burdens. Jesus in the Gospel sees the crowd and takes pity on them, but before he celebrates a meal with them he is active in curing the sick. A message for us who have weekly Eucharist, that the beginning of our sacramental celebration lies with the care of real people, there the body of Christ is first encountered. The needs of the poor, hungry, homeless come before our need for sacramental celebration which connects with our active love.
Isaiah shows us God literally calling people from want and need to life, but that, on this earth has to be through us! The scriptures are not simply pages in a book or nice poetic readings, they are God’s voice calling us to respond now!
But back to my initial question, how do people who have had far more suffering than we ever will know, who in a true sense take on sufferings far more painful than the Christ on the cross, find that love of God?
As I grow older I notice more that in the tangled mess and problems of the world, there is one thread that never snaps, somehow deep in all of this is the presence of Christ alive, loving, suffering with them. The presence of that loving Christ is our constant loving care for these little ones!
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Chaplain for the Melkite Greek Catholics in Britain.
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