Tag Archives: suffering

Healing, not just pain relief.

Drudgery. Slavery. Pointlessness. Job is feeling pretty negative about life. I have felt squeamish about getting into these readings because of my own battles with depression, my own difficulties with finding a work life balance which works for me and my children and the many depressed people in my life. I have been constantly struggling to feel hope for myself, my situation and the situations of friends who don’t even have enough to live on…let alone the people on Manus Island.

I am reluctant to grapple with the negativity of Job, on top of the negativity around me. What if I simply give a nod to the fact that scripture acknowledges depression and discouragement as part of the human condition. Acknowledges them but does not accept them- there is no acceptance in Job. Job complains, in so many other parts of the bible people complain when things go wrong. At time there appears to be a moralistic tone taken against this complaining (murmuring, whinging) and yet it continues.

Humans suffer.

Humans complain.

Humans make stories even about their suffering.

With relief I turn to the psalm where God is healing the brokenhearted, rebuilding Jerusalem, regathering Israel. I am going to wallow in this hopefulness verse after verse as God heals the brokenhearted (don’t we all want a little bit of that?), binds up wounds. God’s healing goes out to more than just humans, s/he is on first-name basis with every star in the sky. At this point I am cheering and calling for God to come into my world/s of work and friendships and politics and the larger world of the environment. Bring this healing and comfort! We all sorely need it!

The psalmist seems of the same mind, breaking into an ecstatic that God is “great”, “mighty in power” and unlimited in “wisdom”. Well, you’d hope so wouldn’t you? It ends on a very interesting two-liner that is echoed also in the Magnificat

“The Lord sustains the lowly;

the wicked he casts to the ground.”


Granted it does not explicitly state that “the wicked” is a synonym for “the privilege and powerful” however the structure of this triumphant challenge comes across as a reversal of the worldly status quo (especially if with Job we are approaching the psalm really disenchanted to begin with). If we are lowly then God will sustain us. If someone is wicked (including us of course) then they will be thrown down.


The dangerous temptation here is to rest in the cosiness of this psalm and think therefore we can let all the evil and injustice go on in the world because God will fix it all. As far as personal morality goes, that may well be a great strategy- leave it to God to decipher and change people’s interior life (and stay open to being called to change ourselves and to greater compassion and understanding). But as far as we see people deprived of food or dignity, left out in the scorching streets to fend for themselves or locked up in muddy unfinished gaol-camps we can’t simply shrug and say “ho hum God’s really nice and will fix it”.


I’d take this psalm as comfort and a safe space to let go of our anxieties and depressions but not as an escape-hole from the world. We rest for our Sunday meal, our happiness with this healing, fixing God and THEN we are empowered to learn from this God how to bring healing and fixing to others. We are God’s children not God’s puppets. We are apprentices not patrons for the master-craftsman of healing and justice that is Holy Wisdom. What God is, we must yearn to become and what God does we must learn. We may not be perfect and powerful and all wise like God in the psalm but we were created in the image of God, inbreathed with God’s breath and then called and sent to touch each other with God’s blessing and healing.


There is so much more in the second reading and gospel but I have already used too many words. I think Bernadette Kiley’s book on Mark has something on the gospel that I couldn’t improve on. If you have had enough of my words you may just want to repray the beautiful psalm. Or pray with me…


God of rebuildings and gatherings,


Teach us how to stop fracturing and undoing our human relationships and our place as part of the earth. Teach us to plant and nurture, to walk in bare feet and feel love again for our brokenhearted, blue and beautiful earth. Teach us to heal.


Show us that we can build tables instead of walls and we can bring people in to sit around the table of grace. Motivate our societies to be less about the miracle of some technology for the privileged 1% and more about the miracle of feeding the 5000. Indulge our curiosity toward the stars, but remind us to reach our arms up to embrace and appreciate the beauty of the stars not to colonise and exploit even the most distant and powerful things in our universe.


Surprise us with a different sort of greatness and power, than the one that must build walls. Show us the wisdom where power lies in sustaining the lowly. Be our unlimited wisdom that shines hope even into these days of suicidal politics toward climate change and conflict. Cast the wicked down from their places of power over others, give us back ourselves. Cast down the wickedness in each of us. Throw out our fearfulness and apathy and greed. Re-orient ourselves toward radical and trusting love.


Heal us as we praise you (and when we can’t) for we are the broken-hearted.

Call, and call, and call, and call again until we learn how to listen.


You are our hope and the Wisdom which is balm.

Be very near.


At the foot of the cross

I wrote this more than a week ago, but I have had internet problems (forgive me). I am hoping to get a guest blogger to belatedly post an Advent 1 reflection for last week, and then later today possibly I can post my advent 2 reflection. Sorry to do nothing so long then swamp you with three at once. Living in Australia, I must have learned something from the weather. Anyway the drought is broken 😉

This morning a mother came in (I work at childcare), and I was busy assisting with the French lesson- we have a group of children of varying needs and temperaments so it was not something I could take my eyes off, but I smiled a greeting at her.

“It was you” she said… “Sorry, I mean did you go to a protest last weekend?”

“About Manus Island” I said slowly. There you go St Peter; that is how it is done! Then again for all the momentary panic I felt (or was it panic at looking away from the children for a couple of sentences?) she was smiling at me, making a safe space for me to be “out” about how I am in the world. I suddenly understood that Peter’s denial of Jesus was about closetedness- and I do know something about that, even as an “out” person I sometimes retreat into various closets about my gender identity and sexual orientation and political views and of course religion. Sometimes perhaps I have two closets facing in on each other and run from one to the other depending who I am talking with.

My excuse is always that this is a time of stress and hatred and blaming all the wrong people. So apologies Peter, I owe you a beer. I don’t really do any better at being “out” than you did.

The mother started saying how sad she was…how hopeless…how she stubbornly hoped…how we ought to treat people bloody well better than what is happening at Manus Island at the moment and I thought back to the protest. My mind is my own while I work- which is to say there os plenty for it to do, but I can sneak in a few little thoughts of my own during the day at the quiet times when I am patting someone to sleep or comforting someone with a grazed knee (the no-brainer activities) or even wiping over tables and floors. So I thought a lot about Manus, and about being recognised in a photo that apparently is circulating on Facebook (I haven’t seen it).

Then I remembered the protest gathering itself and how I fit it in sneakily before the Feast picnic, how I was running late, how I saw my sister on the way there. The first person that I saw when I got there was another friend of mine…she had her family with her. Standing there with a sister and a female friend…at the foot of somebody’s cross, while the speaker told us she understood how powerless we all felt and we all wept. She told us there was no shame in weeping. She said (for us) that it was impossible not to. Powerless to stop someone else’s suffering.

But then the speaker and another speaker both mentioned communications they had had with the modern-day Jesuses on Manus island, the people caught up in someone else’s politics and paranoia and tortured and perhaps killed (if the government think they can get away with it). And unlike the original Jesus of Nazareth, these dark-skinned, suffering men at least have mobile phones (or their supporting angels do).

Compared to the marriage equality rallies, these rallies for human life are so small (but note that many queer looking people were at the Manus island rally, and some signs in the Feast Pride March carried signs about “no Pride in detention” and other words of solidarity, so there is no call to pit one against the other).

But according to the speakers there is some point to these rallies, even if our government appears to have no ears to hear us and no hearts at all! Because the men who are suffering hunger and thirst and heat exhaustion and sickness and the occasional beating and deprivation feel encouraged when they see us gathering in solidarity to know them and to love them and to wish to help them. There was a long message about humanity, that we are human and they are human and we are sharing humanity in this experience of suffering- our tears and nightmares and their reality. So we sat on the ground and crossed our arms above our heads (as the men do in protest) and we sat for what was probably about four minutes but to my aching arms felt like an hour. We sat in silence and we continued to sit as a message from a refugee was read out. Of the people passing by, some looked like tourists and took pictures of us and nodded gravely, their body language appearing to convey approval. Some joined us, most averted their eyes, a few car-loads of people hurled verbal abuse. Tears streamed down my face.

Why should we be abused for believing in the humanity of others. Why were these people so out of touch with their own humanity? What hope was there without ordinary Australians (more of us, most of us, all of us)?

Let us pray,

God who has suffered, I see your face in the refugee and likewise in the activist and the healer who seek to take you down from your cross. Teach me to weep publically, so that my tears may move the mountain of apathy and fear, of ignorance and greed, of hate and despair. Teach me to weep with others, embracing so that our sobs turn into songs of protest.

Where is the resurrection here, at this Golgotha at Manus Island? Where is the hope?

God of passion, break hearts of stone; turn our society around; show us the way, the truth and the life.

As we approach advent, Mary’s God bring in the Magnificat vision of restitutive justice! As we celebrate your coming, show us how to nurture you ever present in those we deem “least”



Stations of the cross II

Once again this year I will confine myself to two stations of the cross, so I actually think about them. Please feel free to check out last year’s post which was stations one and eight.

  1. Jesus carries his cross

The crosses we carry, we might start to think of as part of ourselves, but in fact they are external to us. For example my cross is not that I am female, or a lesbian, or a low-income earner but my cross is that people around me value women and lesbians and low income-earners less. In the same way, we learn to have a deficit model of (for example) Indigenous students in schools but this is simply wrong. The disadvantage (cross) is not their identity but the value judgements we make about some types of people (refugees, disabled people, old people) that make their way of being valued less, work to make a cross for people to suffer on.

Jesus carries his cross. Traditionally we have been told that it is part of his “goodness” not to resist and that we should not resist the crosses placed on us. I don’t think so. I think he does not resist because he is tired and beaten down and knows it is ultimately futile- he is also possibly scared for himself or his apostles. How awful the parts of church history where Jesus’ carrying of his cross has licensed sadism or masochism in Christians (sadism by the powerful, masochism of the weak) because “we all must carry our cross”. It makes me wary of seeing Jesus as a role model. What if instead we view him as a lover or friend? What if it pains us to see him suffer? What if your instinct is to alleviate his suffering and put and end to the injustice that caused it? Is this not more constructive?

But Jesus is also radically committed, in this I suppose we can see him as a role model. He would rather accept the cross than fail in his liberative mission. His integrity and critical voice are more to him than the easy life. So  are the crosses we must accept, the crosses we don’t particularly want, but that are part and parcel of our solidarity with others- the loss of our privilege and security the danger of being honest. If Jesus is carrying his cross, we are called to walk with him as fellow-resisters of the system not as soldiers and cowardly bystanders. And that is the hardness of the Christian message because there may well be consequences for living with integrity and at best it is uncomfortable.

Where does Jesus draw strength to carry his cross? How do we alleviate or cancel unnecessary crosses of others or ourselves? How do we walk with courage and resist unjust systems? How do we find dignity and joy even in facing the weight of our burdens and the long road of suffering?

Jesus teach me how to bear some of the weight to alleviate others?

Holy Wisdom show us better ways to be humanity so that no one has to carry a cross.

Lover of the universe, make me one with Jesus, not part of the cross that must be carried.


  1. Jesus falls a second time

Once we could have forgiven, but there he is losing again, failing again- hopeless and helpless more than once. Once we could have got him back on his feet but he squandered that, he wasn’t wise with the help he was offered. There is a limit to how much you can help people. He must have made a bad choice somewhere. My ability to walk upright is because I make good choices and wise investments, not because of luck or privilege.

Jesus here is like a welfare recipient, bowed under immeasurable weight and falling and then having shuffled to his feet he is tired and beaten and the road gets steeper and the rocks get sharper and maybe so do the taunts or whips of the soldiers. And he falls again. “What a loser” says the system and also “he deserved this”. This is how we view the people who come into this country to find a new life, they are rejected once, twice, again and again. This is how we view welfare “recipients” who have more and more taken away from them and then are expected to keep battling on and on in steeper and steeper conditions with less and less empathy from those who do not struggle as they do.

And in our weakness also, we fail to respond to the person who needs our help or we fail to make ll our commitments, or we fail to be the shining perfect person we want to be.

And we live right now in a society that judges and punishes failures.

What is the stumbling block in my life? Where do I fall again and again? Do I have enough compassion for the falling, struggling Jesus to also learn to have compassion for myself and my imperfections? Can I learn to see Jesus instead of failure in those who need my compassion?

Jesus I see you fall again, teach me to understand how hard your road is.

God who calls me, I hear your voice but the world comes in with burdens and stresses and I fall again and again.

Holy Spirit teach me to know for real that there is no limit or due date on grace.


It is not yet Easter in our lives. All wrongs are not yet healed. This is an eternal truth that we encounter in Good Friday. Pain and suffering and even death are real. God’s grace sometimes seems in short supply and we cannot anticipate the fullness of grace when we are trapped in the “not yet” of our lives.

Jesus remember me, when you find a way through to liberation. Show me how to hold your hand and hold mine.

Ways of (not)Knowing

Is it good to bite into

the crusty, doughy wheatiness

of Word made Flesh made Bread;

to drink the cup- the complex bouquet

of birth and stars and long roads,

friends, stories, long roads,

betrayal, suffering, short road to death

but also hearth-fires and washed feet?


Is it good to remember

that love had courage

to speak out, stand tall,

stand with, be told;

learn and grow;

to hold firm and die?

Dare we shed a tear?


Is it “him” and is it even me?

Where is the place on earth

where love bakes, breaks bread

and wine is shared;

where suffering is acknowledged?

What does it mean

to have “life”?