While in Assis I came across a quote from Santa Chiara (St. Clare) that I had never heard before. Immediately I was struck by the quote as it had a way of succinctly summing up something so very true and important in just a few simple words. It was inscribed somewhere in the Basilica of St. Clare and it was given to me by a friend just a few days before my trip to Assisi. On my way home I began to look for it again on the Internet in order to reflect on it further.
Love that cannot suffer is not worthy of that name.
This quote has continued to return to me several times over this last week. Maybe the first thing that comes to me ask reflect upon it is how much it is both based upon the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ and how much it continues to point back to that same love. It is enriched by Christ’s great and sacrificial love and it illuminates the depths of His great love for God the Father and for us, His brothers and sisters. No one, not even Jesus, loves suffering or death that comes as a result of such great suffering. So why then would God desire to suffer in such a way as He did in Jesus the Son? Why would He endure such horrible suffering in the passion and the cross? For Love. For the sake of His beloved. For the Father, whom He abides with always in loving communion and for us His beloved ones. He would go through such great suffering for our sake and for the sake of the whole world to see us live, to see us free!
I am reminded of a similar and helpful saying attributed to St. Francis that I read years ago and continue to reflect upon over and over again.
The cross is pure joy.
When I first read this many years ago, I didn’t understand a thing about it, yet, even then, there was something that rang true in my heart when those words first entered therein. Years of reflecting upon those words have brought slow insight into the wisdom they express… Similar to St. Clare’s quote, the wisdom is likewise rooted in the person and love of Christ – especially as it is revealed through His cross. How can there be any joy in suffering? In the cross of all things? It is not the instrument or source of torture that animates ones joy it is the love for whom one gladly suffers that does so! Love of God and live of neighbor to the end! This is the charity of Christ! Is is the definition of love – of God who is love! Love that is total, free and faithful! It is this love that is fruitful and fills us and others with joy! It is this love that gives life even to the dead!
So called love, love that is unwilling to suffer, is exposed as selfishness instead. This easily becomes clear when one considers a so-called love that is unwilling to help, sacrifice, suffer for or even with another person – with the so called beloved. It is evident in this distortion of love, that the person who is unwilling to suffer, is only there for themselves – sadly I think tha this also expresses their unwillingness to suffer even for themselves – to live with discipline where it is good for them to do so.
Going back to the original quote, and to St. Clare and St. Francis: I think that they lived this love in such a profound way. First and foremost towards God as both of them willingly and even joyfully suffered and sacrificed much for the sake of Christ and His gospel. It was also their profound love for God that purified and transformed their love so that they, like and with God, were able to love others too. They did not love only a single person totally but all people and even all of creation! They endured and sacrified much for the love of others too. Think of St. Francis binding up and wounds of the lepers and begging on their behalf in for them to be able to eat or of St. Clare washing daily the feet of her sisters (they went barefoot by the way) as an expression of her love for them. These are profound expressions not only of true love but I would dare say truly happy people, full of not only the love of God but the joy of the Lord as well.