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JRS Online Retreat: Day 16 – Tears of the Suffering
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"To love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken."

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask the Father to help you to accompany Jesus in his suffering so that we may learn to grow in the ability to suffer with those in need.  

Reflections for Prayer

Christophe Renders, S.J.
JRS Belgium Director

Brussels, 16 November 2010 – It was barely a month after I had begun visiting Detention Centre 127 at Brussels Airport. I remember Amine’s cheerful smile which lit up his face despite everything he had been through. In Sierra Leone, Amine had been a farmer. Because of the cruel civil war which devastated his country at the end of the nineties, his life was totally changed. He became a diamond digger, obliged to dig the ground for the commander of a rebel battalion which, by the end of the war, had become a mafia style group. One day, Amine was accused of stealing a precious stone. Compelled to hide, he found shelter with a pastor who helped smuggle him out of the country. On arrival at Brussels Airport, he applied for asylum. He was brought to the detention centre where I later met him.

During one of our conversations Amine confided, “I am worried about my son Salieu. Just before I left home I learnt that the commander who threatened me came across my son by chance. His men beat him up. He is not even 18 yet! I think he was brought to hospital but I have had no news of him”. He handed me a scrap of crumpled paper on which I could make out an e-mail address. Amine told me this man was friend of his and asked me to write to him. When I got home, I sent out an e-mail to him. I felt as though I was placing a message in a bottle and casting it into the vast sea. To my great surprise, however, I did receive a reply. Unfortunately, however, the news was not good. Amine’s friend told me that Salieu had died in hospital as a result of his injuries. This news hit me like a punch in the stomach.

Two days later I gathered my courage and made my way to the detention centre. Amine met me in his room. After sitting down beside him on the bed, I told him the terrible news. Amine broke down and cried. I did not know what to do so I put my arm on his shoulder. After a moment, I began crying myself along with him. We stayed like that for perhaps ten minutes, without a word, in the choked silence of our tears. I have rarely felt the meaning of the word compassion as forcefully as I did that day with Amine.

Sometimes tears can make us afraid. We think, “I mustn’t cry. You don’t do things like that.” But tears leave us naked, standing alone in the truth. Tears witness to the heart where God works. Jesus cried over his friend Lazarus, over Jerusalem. What more eloquent sign could there be of his love? Have you ever cried listening to someone who has suffered greatly? Welcome these tears as a gift from God. Deep within you, they open channels of desire to be with Jesus crucified, with Jesus who is still present today in those who suffer.

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

John 11 

Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When the Jews who were with Mary in the house comforting her saw her get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him."

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." So they took away the stone. And Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." 


"To love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken." ~ C.S. Lewis