GIVING MEANING TO SUFFERING

Saturday, 25th Week in Ordinary Time  

            “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”

            The Gospels can emphasize and celebrate the suffering of the Lord because they were written in the light of his Resurrection. Joseph Krempa has this commentary on today’s gospel passage: “To the disciples, the prospect of suffering was catastrophic.” “They thought that the Messiah’s suffering and death indicated that the promised kingdom was a temporary fantasy.” “With the Resurrection of Jesus, a thoroughly new dimension to life here and to the mission of the Church was released.” “It was as though the Lord had discovered a brand-new continent that nobody knew existed and which suddenly made sense of all the gaps in the old maps.” “The hope of this eternal life can now give meaning into suffering, pain and death by making them vehicles of an everlasting glory.”

            John Rose, in his book Weekday Homilies, has this beautiful reflection: “Jesus who is the Bread of Life began his ministry hungering.” “He who is the Water of Life ended his ministry thirsting.” “Christ hungered as a man, yet he fed the hungry as God.” “He was weary, yet he is our rest.” “He paid tribute, yet he is the King.” “He was called a devil, but he cast out demons.” “He prayed, yet he hears our prayers.” “He wept, and he dries our tears.” “He was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet he redeems sinners.” “He was led as a lamb to his slaughter, yet he is the Good Shepherd.” “He gave his life, and by dying he destroyed death.”

            Informed by a doctor that he had only one month to live, St. Francis of Assisi – only forty-five years old but bedridden, almost completely blind, and in constant pain – replied lightheartedly: “Welcome, Sister Death.” Francis showed genuine happiness and joy when he was told about his impending death. How could St. Francis be so joyful even in the face of suffering and death? Because he knew the love of his Savior. He was filled with hope – hope that was able to overcome all fears.

            This kind of hope – Christian hope – is not just a wish or desire that things will go well for us, whatever odds may be. Rather, it is a firm expectancy based on the loving kindness and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Our lives are very secure when they are rooted in God’s promise of eternal life.  

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