Suffering Is Not the Problem, but the Lack of It Would Be Hard to Explain.
The Thirty-First Wednesday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 13: 8-10.
• Psalm 112: 1-2, 4-5, 9.
• Luke 14: 25-33.
The Twenty-First Wednesday after Pentecost.
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Psalm 89: 1-2.
• Matthew 18: 23-35.
8:07 AM 11/6/2019 — “A man cannot be my disciple unless he takes up his own cross, and follows after me” (Luke 14: 27 Knox). In Roman occupied Palestine, crucifixion was the preferred method of execution and was a fairly common sight, so our Lord's disciples knew exactly what this figure of speech meant.
This passage, from Chapter 14 of Luke, is the second time our Lord tells us that those who would follow Him must take up their cross; He did it before in Luke 9. At no time does our Lord ever promise that following Him will take away one's suffering. What He offers is a way to understand it. Later, Saint Peter would address the subject in his first Epistle:
Do not be surprised, beloved, that this fiery ordeal should have befallen you, to test your quality; there is nothing strange in what is happening to you. Rather rejoice, when you share in some measure the sufferings of Christ; so joy will be yours, and triumph, when His glory is revealed” (I Peter 4: 12, 13 Knox).
He’s responding to those who react the way we so often do when suffering comes our way: we keep asking, “Why, Lord? Why?” And we've talked about this before. We keep saying in our prayers, “Lord, I've lived a good life. Why is this happening to me?” It's almost as if we've never read the Gospel. Christianity is the religion of the cross. The marvel would be if we were not suffering; that would be hard to explain.
I put before you the example of Pope Saint John Paul II, who suffered in the last years of his life, but never expressed any dismay or perplexity about it. A lot of people think he was canonized because of his great teaching. He was canonized because of the patient and faith-filled way he bore the sufferings of disease in the last years of his life. And long before that, early in his papacy, he telegraphed what the attitude of the true Christian is toward suffering. In his Apostolic Letter, Salvifici doloris, back in 1984, he wrote:
Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person “completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions”; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the word of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore, he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ's sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of Redemption” (John Paul II, Salvifici doloris, 11 Feb. 1984, #27).
It’s a mouthful, but it also should be a great consolation to us. Those who do not suffer are not truly united to Christ, and can be Christians in name only; but, those of us who do suffer and yet cling to our faith in hope know that we are on the right path.