Msgr Philip Heng, SJ

God’s Mercy and Compassionate Love are a mystery that many struggle to comprehend especially when a person’s pain and suffering are overwhelming and there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. In such situations God seems to be absent. 
In suffering, a person could express his/her pain as: “I find myself in the abyss of darkness that is threatening to swallow me. ‘God’s silence’ is deafening … Where is God when I need Him most? Why is He not answering my pleas and allowing the cruelty of my pain to eat into me? What wrong have I done to deserve such pain and anguish?”

In such situations, we are tempted to give up on God ... and turn to other “voices and even vices” ...

Before we rush into some irrational choices because the pain is too much to bear, let us not forget what Jesus went through. Does your pain not echo Jesus’ cry of anguish in the Agony in the Garden: “Father, if possible, remove this cup from Me, but Your Will, not My Will be done” (Lk 22:42).

Some years ago, one of my aunts, Mabel (not her real name), from overseas showed up unexpectedly and cried out to me, “Father, my son who is working here in Singapore was so deeply depressed that he became violent. He was uncontrollable and took out a knife to threaten to harm his girlfriend (Lucy; not her real name) and me. My heart was pounding in fear and my mind was bombarded with the thought, ‘What if he stabs Lucy?’

“In my desperation, I begged God to rescue us … I was left without any choice but to call the police as the critical situation was beyond me. The police arrived and arrested my son and sent him to IMH where he was sedated. My son now hates me for calling the police and wishes that I am dead. My heart was torn and I began to ask myself, “What have I done, in surrendering my own son to the police?”

“As I was in deep sorrow and pouring my heart out to Jesus in my prayer, it dawned on me that when I ‘sacrificed’ my only son, what was foremost in my mind was the safety of Lucy. A day later, as my heart was still wrenched in confusion, guilt, sorrow . . . as I sat in silence before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; it then dawned on me that God, our loving Father, too, sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, for the sake and salvation of humanity.”

Reflect on our lives for a moment and ask ourselves, “Have I not gone through similar pain and suffering like Aunt Mabel? How did I weather the storms of my life?”

In retrospect, was it not eventually because like Jesus, “God gave me the graces and strength to persevere in my faith, hope and love in Him, that I was able to transcend the pain and suffering that I had to endure?”

Likewise, Aunty Mabel was going through the “Passion of Christ”. We are each called to unite our pain and suffering with the Mystery of God’s Mercy and Suffering; they are inseparable realities. Aunty Mabel’s suffering of her son’s rejection and disowning her was the weight of the cross she was called to bear with “humble surrender” and with “unwavering trust”, and with wisdom, pray with Jesus, “Father, if possible, remove this cup; but Your Will, not my will be done.”

In one of the key principles of the discernment of God’s will, according to St Ignatius of Loyola, one should never make any decisions in time of Spiritual Desolation. In Aunty Mabel’s case, in her emotional pain and suffering, even though she could not feel the Presence of God, she continued to hold on to her faith firmly and trusted God wholeheartedly, that the “Light of Jesus’ Resurrection” will dawn … in God’s time and ways. 
This topic will be taken up in future articles.

Msgr Heng is Rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

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