Pain is part of life. Some is inflicted by nature and some by fellow humans. The first we call fate. The second we call cruelty. Yet we humans are not just helpless victims of fate or cruelty. We can choose what to do with the pain inflicted on us. We can either transform or transmit it.
Our first reaction to pain is rejection and anger. Then, instinctively we blame someone – God, the Church, our parents, the boss, the government or just others. Once the enemy is identified, we have a target. Our life becomes an angry, vicious warpath.
Our war on pain and suffering started as an excellent objective. Technology, medical advances, social reforms, democracy – they all started as our allies. But our sweet victories soon became sour defeats.
Progress weakened us on many fronts. Affluence made us softer, selfish. Money destroyed solidarity and gave birth to ruthless competition. Knowledge and technology made us all-powerful – if we can do it, why shouldn’t we? Life became a convenience trip not an ethical journey.
Our pain was never transformed from enemy to friend – as happens in the beauty of childbirth, the joy of solidarity and the fertility of a loving self-sacrifice. When pain is not transformed we remain trapped in our anger and live in war trenches, singling out and shooting down enemies, in the hope of finding some respite from our inner pains.
So a mother kills her own child. Politics becomes a hateful, oppressive war game. Gender emancipation becomes an oppressive, self-imposing ideology. The pending so-called equality bill becomes a blatant attempt to turn the tables against healthy gender equality, universal freedom of expression and basic conscientious objection.
Christianity also fell for this temptation. Its founder was persecuted, killed and his followers oppressed. With Constantine, it tasted power, beginning the end of the revolution Jesus came to accomplish. The oppressed Church turned oppressive, burning heretics and waging wars.
Anger transmits pain. Only love transforms it. Jesus did not fight back pain but healed it by embracing it. This is the challenge we face today. We are all hurt in more ways than one. Shall we just hit back at life and at others, sacrificing them in our war against pain?
Will politicians stop using corruption to secure more popularity, privilege and power? Will the Church be a witness of simplicity and companionship to the poor rather than a guardian of past glories and traditions. Will families become havens of committed love and safe homes for new life and happy children? Will standard bearers of equality and diversity defend both for everyone? Will developers and business lobbies stop their addiction to gain, and heal the pain of the loss of a healthy environment for society?
Transmitting our pains will only make them boomerang back, rendering us more lonely and bitter. Transforming our pains will open our hearts to discover and taste the greater peace and joy we have been created for – hand in hand with our brothers and sisters as well as our endangered planet.
Fr Paul Chetcuti, member of the Society of Jesus
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