Some years ago a University Chaplain, (who had a PhD in pure Mathematics) stated that ‘Maths was the language of God’ and leaned back in his chair with a smug grin.
I can see now that he was onto something. But Maths, as any high school student knows, is merely one of the many dialects of His universal language...suffering.
Suffering cannot be understood or avoided; it can only be felt and journeyed through. From the minor irritations that fill our days to the big stuff, cries out the message that we are not made for this place, that finding permanent happiness and fulfillment on earth is not really part of the plan, indeed any such attempt will be thwarted.
Mother Teresa framed our future hope well with the statement that “in light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel”.
It was in one of her homes for the dying (in Manila) that I witnessed a most extraordinary transformation. My wife and I used to visit a lady who had been lifted from the streets by the sisters and brought into the home with terminal cancer. She had, what to me seemed, an unimaginably hard life; it was etched into her angry, weary face.
At first she was disinterested in anything to do with God. Over the coming months as her pains worsened and the sisters and carers looked after her daily needs, she became more open to prayer. The wards encircle the chapel and the sanctuary lamp burns at the heart of the home. Bathed in constant prayer her heart softened, she opened up, told her story, wrote to people she would never see again to tie up loose ends. The last time we met she told my wife that she had offered her last days and all her sufferings to Jesus. She was peaceful and even smiled through the pain.
She was following a well trodden path. Her savior had gone ahead of her and beckoned her ‘follow me’, this is the way of the cross and from the cross into the light of eternity. (Rev 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”)