The experience of suffering – Part 2

The grace of knowing that Jesus suffered and died for me

It took six days of rest, a visit to a hospital, and some physiotherapy before I was able to walk again. The morning that I recommenced the Camino with the other pilgrims I was filled with deep apprehension. Would I make it through the day? Or would my body break down again? It was still dark when we began our walk, and I found myself saying, “Jesus, I need you to be my companion today.” At that stage on the pilgrimage we were contemplating Jesus in his Passion. In this period of the retreat Ignatius suggests that we ask God for the following grace:

[203] In the Passion it is proper to ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and deep grief because of the great affliction Christ endures for me.

The last two words “for me” are critical. Ignatius uses these words carefully and deliberately because he wants me to know that the awful events that are unfolding are an act of love “for me”.

As we walked for the first two hours in silence I knew that Jesus was walking with me and loving me. As I walked with Jesus I had the deep felt-sense that he was walking towards Calvary for me, that he would suffer and die there for me. I felt consoled and supported. I had given homilies about Jesus suffering and dying to save us, but the truth was that I had never before had the heart-felt knowledge that Jesus suffered and died for me. I received it that morning. This was my conversion experience.

When I look back on that day I realize that if I hadn’t had shin splints, if I hadn’t failed in my goal of walking the whole Ignatian Camino, if I hadn’t felt ashamed of my failure, if I wasn’t filled with apprehension, then I wouldn’t have needed Jesus to be my companion and I probably wouldn’t have received the grace of heart-felt knowing that he died for me.

My failure led me to acknowledge my utter dependence upon God. Pain, suffering and failure opened me up to God. I met my limits and there I encountered Jesus as one who suffered for me. So, I would invite you to pray for the heart-felt grace to know that Jesus suffered and died for you.

Fr Michael Smith SJ

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