There are two ways that we can know God—through consolation and through suffering. Which one do we always choose? Humanly speaking, we don’t want suffering. We all have the natural tendency to shun life’s sufferings and embrace only life’s consolation. We don’t want to suffer. We will do everything to avoid it. But the Lord is telling us that to know Him better, we need to accept that His true identity is always connected with His suffering. What does this mean?
It means that we can know God through His suffering love. And this God’s suffering love is the wounds, the thorns, the nailed hands and feet, and the pierced heart of God. Embracing all these pains seemed not enough to show His love for us. It is a kind of love which seeks to suffer for the sake of the beloved . . . a love which is willing to sacrifice everything, without complaint, without weary, without doubt. What really matters to God is not the pain but the beauty of the beloved and how to win the beloved’s love. It is like the story of young woman told by a storyteller.
A young woman, deeply in love with her beloved, had not seen him for some time, and was missing him greatly. She also had a teacher whom she loved, and taught her many things. And so the young woman went to her. The teacher welcomed her, and handed her a huge basket of freshly picked strawberries. Then the teacher said, “Do you see that mountain?” The woman said yes. The teacher said, “Carry this basket of strawberries up that mountain.” And the teacher turned away.
Reluctantly, she hefted the basket into her arms and turned her steps to the high mountain. Slowly she wound her way up the difficult path, wondering what this assignment was about, why she had to do this, what was the teaching, maybe she had come to the wrong teacher, and so on and on. Grousing and grumbling, stumbling now and again, feeling the sun burn hot on her back, the basket of strawberries growing heavy, she nevertheless came to the top of the mountain, and found herself standing in a beautiful, peaceful, flower-filled meadow. The woman looked across the meadow, and saw her beloved moving toward her, gazing at her with eyes of profound love and a smile of sweet welcome.
When the storyteller came to the end of the tale, he added to the teaching by telling some of the woman's thoughts: “If I had only known that the strawberries were for the Beloved, that the journey was toward my Beloved, I would not have been so fussy or puzzled or grown so weary, or complained so much, or failed to notice the beauty of the mountain I was climbing.”
To know God deeply is to be wounded deeply like God. We come to know God deeply not in our moment of consolation but in the moment of our great suffering. It is only at that moment that we may be able to answer profoundly the Lord’s question: “Who do you say that I am?”
Lent is a journey, a pilgrimage to God’s suffering love. Amen!
REV. FR. JOSE THOR R. VILLACARLOS