I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 18-24, 31-32, 37-39
Entering into the sufferings that He embraced
Let us pray: God our Creator, I beg of you that I may truly be a friend to Jesus and enter in to the sufferings that he embraced for everything you bring to life… and for me.
This is a hard prayer.
When I trained as a spiritual director, I studied a lot of elaborate methods the Jesuits have for organizing different seasons in prayer. But in Holy Week, suddenly there is only one instruction: Stay with Jesus. Stay close, keep your eyes open, be aware, be ready to be surprised. Stay as close as you can.
I’ve been visiting a friend in the hospital for almost two weeks. I don’t say this to get goody points. He’s not dying, he’s getting better. He has other visitors, and I don’t go every day. But I go, and it’s an example in miniature of just how hard it is to stay close to suffering.
I’m not ambivalent about going. I want to go, I want to be useful and cheerful. I’ve known this person for more than 40 years. But when I get to the door of his room, there’s really nothing I can do. My friend is resolved to be hopeful… but he is also frightened and weak and exasperated and sometimes uncomfortable, because the room is cold (while I’m broiling) or because he’s hungry (while they are trying to control his blood sugar, so no running to the vending machines to bail him out). The fact is, the minute I get there I can’t leave soon enough. With his other visitors he sits and chats and everybody seem happy enough. With me, it’s safe to let the guard down and so I see how exasperated or helpless he is … and I hear not so much complaints but plaints, real expressions of frustration and need. And I want to be out of there. Instantly. Want to be anywhere else in the world. When I go home, I escape not into prayer but onto the computer — or the shelves of the refrigerator. If I were more of a drinker, I’d drink for sure the minute I got in the door.
I ‘m telling you this because I know I’m not alone. This is what we do as humans. And this week is like a long hospital visit, isn’t it?
Not only that but we’re supposed to be fasting… to, like Jesus, refuse to accept anything to numb the pain.
So when I come to the text I chose to meditate on today with you, my question is, how in the world do I bridge the gap between the call that I hear… where my heart tells me I want to be… and what I live when I get there?
I found great hope when I discovered a different version of Saint Paul’s message. Listen to it again, in Eugene Peterson’s skillful, but much freer, translation…
I don’t think there is any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. This created world itself can hardly wait for what is coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back now. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment. Meanwhile the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. We are also feeling the birth pangs. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing [the Godself] to the worst by sending [God’s] own Son, is there anything else [God] wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? . . . Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing. . . . None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” 
Back before there was any Christian Church at all, the Love of God came to a proud, capable, qualified Pharisee named Saul, who discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was… and is… the bridge between who we are and who we want to be.
It is from his words that I take hope this week. Because, as he wrote to the Corinthians, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. —1 Corinthians 13:7
Let us pray: God our Creator, I beg of you that I may truly be a friend to Jesus and enter in to the sufferings that he embraced for everything you are bringing to life… and for me.
The prayer at the beginning and end is adapted from William Tetlow SJ, “Choosing Christ in the World (Institute of Jesuit Sources: 1999), 85.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary English (NavPress: 1993), 322-323.