My Heart as a Sanctuary Lamp - A Living Lamp
I was thinking about some of the different types of suffering and crosses that people carry. There are so many! There are crosses of illness - physical, psychological, emotional, etc.; crosses of gender identity crisis; addiction, loneliness, grief, bereavement and loss; the crosses of infertility - just to name a few. It helps me to remember that this earthly life is not paradise - it is a preparation for paradise in heaven. It is a time of testing; a time to grow and to allow God to increase our capacity to love Him for all eternity. A time to live by the dark night of Faith (believing in God's love even when he seems absent or distant or asleep on the job); a time to grow in merit; and suffering is a big part of all of this. "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:6-9). Our secular culture does not clearly understand this and therefore does not understand the deeper purpose & meaning of suffering. This is because our society is predominantly hedonistic, meaning that the number one goal seems to be the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain - at all costs. How different is the Way that Jesus taught us:
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
Even though, at first, this sounds like a way deprived of fulfillment, it is, in fact, the exact opposite. We are not meant to carry our crosses with our own strength. This, combined with the fact that God is so drawn to our weakness, highlights the fact that the very crosses that we carry are the means to a deeper union with Him. It is this supernatural union with a loving Being, infinitely higher & greater than ourselves, that is the conduit of true & lasting joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding.
I was thinking about how the death of my son is my cross, a sacrifice that God has asked of me, and that I could respond to in many different ways; five of which are:
1. Anger & confusion which leads to despair. 2. Comfort seeking distraction. 3. Trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps and carry on with my own strength.
4. Seeking answers through ways that are sinful because they are dangerous and not helpful in the long run. Here I am referring to mediums. 5. Continually struggling for a trustful surrender to Divine Providence - his inscrutable, unsearchable ways - ways that I will only fully understand in heaven - and to lean on Him for the ability to open this suffering up to His presence and love. And, even though I may feel no sensible consolation and, even "feel" completely rejected by God because of this tragedy, this is the exact time that I need to live by pure Faith (believing in His love no matter what my feelings tell me).
I desire to choose the fifth option and so, I need the strength that I receive from Christ in the Eucharist to live this way. Much like an antibiotic or a vitamin - in that we cannot "feel" what they are doing to heal and strengthen us as we consume them - the Eucharist is healing and strengthening our spirit almost imperceptibly at first. As each wave of grief washes over me, I am somehow supernaturally empowered (through my union with Christ), to offer it back to the Lord as a sacrifice regardless of my feelings. This will be a perpetual sacrifice to him because I know that this suffering is a cross that I will carry for the rest of my earthly life.
But, I am not the only one to benefit from this. He takes the healing process up to a higher level and brings meaning and purpose to it by uniting it with his suffering and using it to increase the flow of grace in the world: he uses it as a channel of grace for the people for whom I offer it as a prayer of intercession.
One morning, I was praying this way - crying and offering all the pieces of my broken, shattered heart to Him. I was telling the Lord that even if I did not consciously tell him that I was offering my suffering to him as a sacrifice for others, I wanted him to use it that way. Immediately, I felt like the Holy Spirit brought to my mind an image of the candles in Church that burn continually and that we light as a symbol of our prayers and petitions. We light those candles for a prayer intention and the prayer remains before God even when we leave and go about living our lives. I immediately sensed that He was telling me that the offering of my shattered heart - my suffering - was like a candle burning before him perpetually. Even when I was occupied with the busyness of life and my mind wasn't consciously thinking about my son, my offering was still just as real and effective as when I am conscious of it. Then my thoughts were led to the red sanctuary lamp that burns before the tabernacle 24/7, and I felt like He was letting me know that is an even better symbol of how He sees my offering. He sees the offering of my heart and my suffering as a Living Lamp burning with love before His Eucharistic Presence.
This is profound to me and touched me deeply because I offer a lot of my suffering up for people to love, understand, appreciate, etc. His love for us in the Eucharist - the Most Blessed Sacrament.
This isn't just for me; it is how He looks at each one of His children who are carrying their crosses as a sacrifice of love for Him or at least struggling to do so. He is so grateful for this unbelievable act of love and trust and is using their offerings in ways that will bring great glory to Him and will benefit many souls.
THIS BRINGS UP THE QUESTIONS: Why Do We Have to Carry our Crosses? Isn't What Jesus Did Enough?