Here’s Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s ‘Pause for Thought’ reflection from today – 8 June 2017. It was broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 2’s The Chris Evans Show.
I am now 40 years a bishop and the first 23 years were spent in the South of England where I lived in a house with a large garden. I used the house and garden for all kinds of events. One of the social highlights of the summer was a special celebration of an open air Mass with disabled people in the diocese, normally about 500 including their parents and carers. Our liturgy would be followed by tea and impromptu music and dancing.
I always remember one man whose wife had been very ill for many years. They had a disabled daughter and this man came with her to the event each year. One year I caught sight of him and his daughter dancing together after the celebration. I had never before seen such intense love and suffering, radiating simultaneously, on the face of a human person. It was as if the suffering he so clearly experienced only increased his love for his daughter, and his love for his daughter in turn deepened his inner suffering.
Some years ago the then Director of the National Gallery, Neil MacGregor mounted an Exhibition called Seeing Salvation. It brought together some of the most arresting and moving paintings of the face of Christ by great artists over many years. The Exhibition drew huge crowds. ‘People’, Neil said to me, ‘came to catch a glimpse of the transcendent’. For many gazing on the face of Jesus Christ was an opportunity to gaze on the human face of God, a face of suffering and a face of love.
There may be someone in your family, a relative or a friend who endured great suffering, but your love and suffering with him or her has exposed the deepest truths of our lives, namely that we do have to suffer but suffering can lead to great love.
I hope you won’t mind if I end this thought with a prayer which you may have heard before. It is by St Francis of Assisi and perhaps not inappropriate on this particular day:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.