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Suffering for Love

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Love Summary for the Year: Week 2

Suffering for Love
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
(Feast of the Holy Innocents)

Authentic love is of one piece. How you love anything is how you love everything.  Love is a quality of relationship more than a statement about the worthiness or deservedness of the object loved. (Read that twice!)

Jesus commands us to “Love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” and he connects the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor, saying they are “like” one another (Matthew 22:40). So often, we think this means to love our neighbor with the same amount of love—as much as we love ourselves. We love others from the same Source, with the same Love, that allows us to love ourselves, others, and God at the same time! That is, unfortunately, not the way most people understand love, compassion, and forgiveness, but it is the only way loving truly will ever work. How you love is how you have accessed Love, just as it is between the three Persons of the Trinity.

You cannot sincerely love or forgive someone inside of dualistic consciousness. Try it, and you’ll see it can’t be done. We have done the people of God a great disservice by preaching the Gospel to them but not giving them the tools whereby they can obey that very Gospel. As Jesus put it, “Cut off from the vine, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The “vine and the branches” are one of the greatest Christian mystical images of the nonduality between God and the soul. In and with God, I can love everything and everyone—even my enemies. Alone and by myself, with only my will power and intellect, I won’t be able to love in difficult situations or over the long haul. Trying to be compassionate and loving through our own efforts will eventually lead to cynicism and disillusionment.

“One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence,” as Robertson Davies wrote. [1] The original meaning of “innocent” is unwounded, so apparently we all need to suffer what I call a “sacred wound.” Today’s feast, strangely named “The Holy Innocents,” shows us that even the innocent and good ones will often be wounded by society, culture, and even family. Somehow wounding is part of the human journey. We are all “holy innocents,” each carrying our unique woundedness.

Sarah Fields says that “Hate is just a bodyguard for grief. When people lose the hate, they are forced to deal with the pain beneath.” [2] I guess we could say that King Herod and the poor soldiers who massacred the Jewish children (Matthew 2:16-18) were just not ready to deal with the pain underneath, which made them incapable of compassion—for that is where compassion comes from—holding the pain of the world.

Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds. Love, I believe, is the only way to initially and safely open the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps the door open and available for ever greater growth. We dare not refuse love or suffering or we close the door to life itself. By honoring God’s image in our own deep capacity to love, and then extending it to both the innocent and the non-innocent, we achieve the triumph of love—for we also are wounded.

Gateway to Silence:
Be the change you wish to see in the world. —Gandhi

[1] Robertson Davies, Fifth Business (Penguin Books: 2001), 245.
[2] Sarah Fields, as quoted by Charles Eisenstein, “The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story,” November 10, 2016,

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 127-128.

Image credit: Doves and Pear Blossoms after Rain (detail) 1266-1300, Qian Xuan (1235-1305), Cincinnati Art Museum.
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