CATHOLIC Q&A WITH FR. MIKE: "Is there any value in suffering?"
By Fr, Mike Manning, SVD
We all know suffering. Sometimes the suffering comes from our own mistakes and choices. We don’t turn on the light when we entered a room and thus fell and broke a leg. We smoked too much and now have a bad case of emphysema. Sometimes we suffer persecution when we discipline our children or stand up to a person at work who’s doing wrong.
Sometimes we suffer as innocent victims. As we grow old our body causes us many aches and pains. A drunk driver might cripple us. We might contract cancer despite a good diet and healthy exercise.
Yes, we all know suffering whether we choose it or not.
In today’s readings we are reminded that Christ entered into our world of suffering. In his desire to show his love for us, he wanted to make sure that he was a part of our life. He wanted to relate to us in all things. He is with us when we suffer.
Christ’s suffering also is the path to our salvation. Christ suffers and dies. And in this he pays the price for our being able to have our sins forgiven and we can attain heaven and eternal life with God.
In a marvelous way, we believe that we can unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ. In a way that transcends time, our sufferings today, both the suffering we choose and not choose, are united with the suffering of Jesus. Our suffering becomes part of the suffering of Christ for the salvation of all people and of the world.
This means that when you are suffering and wondering what value your pain has, our faith tells us that we can unite our suffering with the salvific suffering of Christ. Our suffering becomes part of Christ’s suffering for the salvation of all people in the world.
St. Paul gives us an insight into this when we wrote in his letter to the Colossians, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church." Colossians 1.24 That means that Christ is relying on us to be part of his suffering and cross. He values our suffering. That means that if we are in bed and all alone with our pain, we are doing something powerful with God. Our suffering is bringing salvation to people. We are bringing to competition the sufferings of Jesus. Our suffering has a mighty value.
As we look to a positive value in our suffering, we must be careful not to fall into inflicting suffering on ourselves merely for the sake of suffering. We read of some Christians who do harm to their bodies, they whip and scourge themselves. I don’t think this is proper. We can inflict enough suffering on ourselves merely by trying to live the Christian life and bearing the persecution that’s involved.
Today’s message is encouraging. Our suffering is not meaningless. We can unite our pain with that of Christ and be part of saving the world.
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