At the end of her 43 years of life she stayed at home amidst seven long years of pain and suffering - the worst I've ever seen. I came close to cursing Jesus for he had only been on the cross for three hours; my sister's suffering was much more awful. Wheelchair bound and constricted in a physical prison, a tube inserted to feed her and a tube to catch her waste, she was stung with pain. We would hold her in our arms each day and look into her catatonic eyes wondering if she knew we were there. How we wished she could speak and tell us how she felt. She cried cry herself to sleep and immediately awoke from her chronic, ceaseless pain. Sleep could not soften her fatigue. Hospitals sent her back to us because her pain was unbearable for nurses and other patients to hear. It caused everyone discomfort. Even loving care-givers did not want to hear her moans. We fear suffering. Fear and psychic pain arose and we tried to reach her to let her know we were there for her, though we were unable to help her. We were inexhaustibly powerless. We could provide no relief. We were stripped of any choice - utterly without any control or power.
After further groaning and moaning to God while caressing my sister's tormented face, my gaze penetrated deeply into my sister's blank, catatonic eyes. She could not fully see me back but I had to continue to look. I wanted to find her, to have her recognize me, to stand by her, and I could not give up. I gazed into a dark infinity through her eyes. Exhausted, despairing, and hopeless, I was drawn in to see the sad, sorrowful eyes of Jesus looking back at me. He was there on the cross, weeping, weeping deeply for my sister. I finally came to a place of stillness and silence. I gazed upon him on the cross as he beheld my sister on hers. He was with her in her suffering and with me in mine. He writhed in anguish because we were in anguish as life slipped out of his body. He was so sad for us and he could not get off the cross because he needed to be there for us.
I encountered a gentle God - a God who cannot act violently. Jesus gives us the greatest gift he can - by being in vulnerable solidarity with his people as he hangs on the cross, with those who hang on the cross. Ironically, if we look deeply into our suffering, we will undoubtedly find the broken, disabled, disfigured Christ, imprisoned on his Cross, and he will gently be present to us. No greater gift exists. The world changes.
At some point in our lives, we have to confront death. David did it with his beloved Absalom, Jairus with his daughter, the nameless woman of chronic hemorrhages looks at her own impending mortality, my mother with her firstborn. It is at our weakest - when we are with someone in his or her suffering - that we find intimacy with Jesus in our suffering. It is the point where he consoles me and tells me I am not alone. He does not want suffering. This is the reason he brings the daughter of Jairus back to life and turns to the poor woman to give her a name and a chance to live again. He wants to give you life as well. Christ took on powerlessness because of our powerlessness. He wants to die on the Cross for you - so you can have life with him.