Christ is united to us in our suffering

| Deacon Adrian Westphal | May 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

It is often asked, “If there is a God, why does he allow us to suffer?” Suffering, for the most part, is something we do not want.

Within the world today, there are those who quickly try and justify the ending of a life of suffering based on some ethereal idea of “quality of life,” whereby one determines that another’s life is not worth living because they are suffering too much or because they have some sort of disability.

But this desire to flee from suffering is not just the tendency of a fallen humanity. Christ himself, the perfect God-man, desired to give up his impending suffering if there was another way to achieve the Father’s will. Remember his prayer in the garden, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. But not my will, but yours be done.”

Christ, by enduring suffering, gave us the model of suffering. Often, when we are faced with suffering, we ask God, “What did I do to deserve this?” Fulton Sheen answers this question with another one: “What did He do to deserve that?”

Christ doesn’t always take away our sufferings, but he did take on suffering so that, even in the midst of the deepest and darkest pain and despair, we can find him there. God allows suffering, for some mysterious reason, but he also has revealed himself to be with us, to be united to us, in our suffering.

Many saints have even asked for the ability to share in Christ’s sufferings — to either somehow mystically alleviate Christ’s suffering on the cross or to share in Christ’s redeeming work, so that they save souls through their pain.

St. Paul, from our second reading, falls into this category. He encourages those who are suffering, saying that through suffering we learn endurance.

He writes elsewhere that he is making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. This is probably the hardest part of the Christian faith: to willingly endure suffering on account of it being the will of God and because it purifies us and it keeps us close to the cross of Christ.

This makes our Christian faith appear difficult. We, too, are called to suffer as Christians, called to imitate Christ — but we can count on his grace in the midst of suffering.

Suffering is easy to preach on, but hard to live out.

Sharing in suffering, joy

If we are to follow the path of Christ, the path of the one who suffers, then our focus, like his focus, must be on the will of God. Suffering is the lot of the Christian, for it was the lot of Christ. But, just as we share in his sufferings, we share in his strength and his joy, as the Gospel promises.

Let us pray that Christ will strengthen us as we face suffering, and that he will give us the promise of eternal joy.

Deacon Westphal is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa. His home parish is Holy Trinity in Des Moines; his teaching parishes are St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater.

 

Readings

Sunday, May 26
The Most Holy Trinity

  • Proverbs 8:22-31
  • Romans 5:1-5
  • John 16:12-15

Reflection

Where do you draw your strength to endure suffering? How has Christ been present to you?

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Category: Sunday Scriptures