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"We follow One who wept…"
In C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves, we recall that, in addition to physical anguish, Jesus also experienced heartbreak. How consoling it is that He doesn't simply know about our pain, as if He were merely observing it from a distance. Jesus chose to enter fully into our humanity in every way (except sin), including the experience of immense suffering. Through this, we see that His love is characterized by deep compassion—a word rooted in the Latin for "suffer with." Out of love, Jesus suffers with us.
In times of trial, we see more clearly our need for God and each other. And although society often views dependence negatively, in His humanity, Jesus shows us this need as something to embrace. During his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, He turned to His friends for support: "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me" (Matthew 26:38).
So too, we can turn to God and others. In times of suffering, we may feel almost paralyzed: the thought of moving—physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally—can seem impossible. At these times, more than ever, we need to let ourselves be carried by others' support.
Jesus's request to "keep watch" with Him also calls us to stay awake and be watchful over others who are suffering. He wants to show His love for each person through the ways in which we care for each other. We see examples both of letting ourselves be carried and of proactively caring for others in the story of Jesus healing the man with paralysis.
In Mark's gospel, a paralyzed man was carried to Jesus by his friends. But Jesus was preaching to such a large crowd that there was no room for them, "even around the door" (Mark 2:2). Rather than abandon hope, the men broke through the roof above Jesus and lowered their friend down to Him.
Whatever the sufferings in our lives, we need to help carry each other to Christ, the ultimate healer, so He might cure us in every way. In his apostolic letter On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Saint John Paul II offers a reminder of "how essential it is, for the eternal life of every individual, to 'stop,' as the Good Samaritan did, at the suffering of one's neighbor, to have 'compassion' for that suffering, and to give some help."
Through the support of others, we can ask for and receive Christ's healing love. And in turn, we can offer that love to others.
Although it doesn't take away our pain, Saint John Paul II also offers hope: "The mystery of the Redemption of the world is in an amazing way rooted in suffering, and this suffering in turn finds in the mystery of the Redemption its supreme and surest point of reference."
Good Friday is not the end of the story.
Anne McGuire is Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Visit www.usccb.org/respectlife for the bishops' Respect Life materials on the theme "Moved by Mercy."
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