Today is a tough day as we remember not only all who serve today and served in the past in various conflicts but we also mourn the tragic loss of life and devastation in the Philippines from the typhoon. It is really hard to absorb so much pain, suffering, and grief. But we must tangle with these things because in so much as suffering touches the life of another person, it touches us. The monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton wrote of his realization of just this insight:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…
"This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man [sic], a member of a race in which God Himself [sic] became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)
Our connectedness compels us to care ... and to respond. It may be a simple gesture like posting on Facebook your gratitude to the veterans in your life or bringing to prayer the people of the Philippines. Or it may be donating to organizations that are helping with vets dealing with post traumatic stress disorder or immediate relief to agencies like Catholic Relief Services that are with the people of the Philippines.
In whatever way you respond, meet suffering with love.
Art by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, at Bee Still Studio