You shall say to them this word: Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter—my people—is struck down with a crushing blow, with a very grievous wound. If I go out into the field, look—those killed by the sword! And if I enter the city, look—those sick with famine! For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land, and have no knowledge.
Have you completely rejected Judah? Does your heart loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us? We look for peace, but find no good; for a time of healing, but there is terror instead. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.
Lamentation passages from the Old Testament make me uncomfortable. They are the sort of readings I like to rush through because they ask me to sit with pain and suffering. I often flee from discomfort. I respond to pain by trying to fix it. When others share their sorrows, I immediately switch into problem-solving mode.
Jeremiah shows us a different way. After suffering hunger and violence, his community seeks peace, healing, and rest from destruction. When Jeremiah laments to God, he pours out his pain, confusion, loss, and hurt. He is direct and holds nothing back. In the midst of sorrow, he faithfully turns to God for a way forward.
Being in loving solidarity with others requires that we learn to sit with them in their joys and sorrows. Embracing our Christian call to be conscientious global citizens requires that we engage with the tragedies of our world. Fostering an intimate relationship with Christ requires aligning ourselves with Jesus’ suffering and death, even as he is crucified among us today.
Ask for the grace of patient courage to sit with pain and suffering. Then, as Jeremiah did, boldly express yourself to our listening God.
—Aaron Pierre, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
What more could bring us hope than to know the pow’r of his life?
What more could bring us peace than to share in his suff’ring and death?
What more could be our final wish than to live in the love of the Lord?
—Michael Joncas, “The Love of the Lord, © 1988, GIA Publications, Inc.
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