Chelsea Zimmerman is guest posting here this month. We’re glad to have her. She typically writes at Reflections of a Paralytic – which is a great blog that you should bookmark or follow or favorite or whatever it is you do. Just read her here and then go there. Here is her latest:
Last week I commented on a story about a woman who chose to kill her unborn child in order to spare him (what she thought would be) a life terrible suffering. In my comments I mentioned that, though she thought she was acting out of love, she was actually confusing love with pity and a kind of selfish empathy. Why? What does it mean to really love and what is one to do when a loved one is suffering so terribly?
First of all, love is an affirmation of the human person. It is to rejoice in his very being and say, “it is good that you exist!” I recall a poster that used to hang in the office where I went to grade school that said, “I know I’m somebody, cause God doesn’t make junk.” The creation of every human being is a deliberate act on the part of Almighty God. It is always the fruit of a Great and Glorious Love and an invitation to participate in that love.
But, how is it loving to bring a child into the world who would only know pain and suffering?
Mother Teresa once said that love means being willing to “give until it hurts.” The true meaning of the word “consolation“ suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. We think that by pushing all that is imperfect and difficult out of our sights, we are showing the tenderness of our hearts, when all we are really betraying is our own fear, and how it owns us. The fullness of love requires a shift to a higher dimension of reality, beyond the reach of mere feelings to the affirmation of another person for his own sake and being willing to suffer with and for him through a sincere gift of oneself.
Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love. (Spe Salvi, 38)
Mother Teresa is also quoted as saying:
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
This is the paradox of the Cross: love grows through suffering and makes suffering bearable. Mother Teresa surely lived this out in her work with the poorest of the poor, no doubt using for herself the model of Christ’s Passion and death which is The Model of true love and consolation. As Pope Benedict writes:
God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’ Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio (consolation) is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises (Spe Salvi, 39)
If we ever want to see the image of true love, we have only to gaze upon the Cross.
Christ did not die in order to eliminate our suffering, but so that we would not have to suffer alone. The Cross is for Christ a burden of love for all humankind. We are called to this same love as Christ has said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). There is “no greater love” than to lay down one’s life for another and, I would say, to “suffer with” the other. By taking up our own crosses and those of our suffering brothers and sisters, uniting them with the Cross of our Salvation, not only will all truly be consoled, but also our love, and our capacity to love more, will grow as a result.
Suffering should be remedied whenever possible, but it is a part of life, and eliminating it is not in our power. By treating the sick/disabled/elderly/unborn child as a human beings worthy of the the beauty and goodness that life can bring, even in the midst of extreme suffering, many, like Mother Teresa, have discovered that this act of love, though it may not take the suffering away, can make it bearable for everyone involved.