Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Splinter of the Cross

How fearful is the suffering of unrequited love!  How the rejected heart oscillates, dazed and confused, between tears and anger, between hurt and humiliation, between the urge to cut off the beloved forever and a longing for reconciliation!  The worst physical pain, or all the physical pains of one's life put together, cannot equal it.  Its description is beyond the reach of human language.  It is a tribulation compared to which the death of the beloved would be a blessing.  It is a wound that will not stay closed, a broken bone that never sets.  True love is selfless; yet the broken heart, still prostrate, is pierced with emptiness and sorrow at the sight of the beloved happy with someone else.  Because we are made to love and to be loved, these sufferings are as real as they are dreadful.  Pretending that they are trivial or non-existent is foolish; stoicism is useless.  The broken heart can only be mended without anesthesia.

How heavy and overwhelming is the cross of unrequited love!  How huge and unwieldy!  In Catholic grade school, our teachers used to tell us that in the cross, Christ bore on His raw and bleeding shoulders the weight of every last sin that ever has been or ever will be committed.  It is the infinite weight of His unrequited infinite love for creatures who, made to return it, despised it instead.  The cross of unrequited human love, finite as this love is, and tainted by self-interest, is just a splinter of His Cross.    

Yet how terrible, how crushing is its weight!  How little and weak we are, to be so nearly overcome by so small a thing!  And its weight increases with the knowledge that it is not undeserved.  If our love is scorned, we ourselves have scorned love.  The pain that crushes us is a fitting punishment.

But in another way, this crushing is undeserved.  That we should be allowed to suffer and atone for having scorned love in this life, instead of having to suffer in eternity, perhaps without atonement, is a free and wholly unmerited gift.  That we should be given in chastisements the means to correct our faults is the sign that we are sons and not bastards.  That a tiny share of the Passion should be bestowed upon us is a pledge of great treasure to be laid up for us in heaven.  All we need is to be in the state of grace, and to pray, over and over, for the actual grace to be protected from turning this great trial into an occasion to sin.

And to recognize the hand of God in everything that happens to us, however blinded we are by tears.  

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