Monday, April 30, 2012

Does Suffering have value?

c.s. Lewis once said that "pain is God's megaphone to the world." It sure does get our attention. One of the legacies of Pope John Paul II is that he taught us the redemptive meaning of suffering. He taught us that if born with Jesus Christ, our crosses can be a means of helping to save the souls of sinners. How? Robert Schroeder develops this theme in his book John Paul II and the meaning of human suffering. St. Therese once stated that she wanted "to eat at the table of sinners." What she means is that in her great love she wanted to identify with the abandonment/depression/grief/sadness of those who deliberately and continualy offend God with a life of sin. This identification is in imitation of Our Lord. Here are the words of Schroeder: "With suffering, there are no escape clauses. Its sharp tendrils reach all of us and cut deeply. But what if we could turn the tables on suffering-not by eliminating our pain altogether but by doing something to give it purpose and meaning? What if we could do good through our suffering? According to John Paul, that is precisely what our relationship with Jesus Christ empowers us to do. We discover theis profound truth in what the Pope calls the Gospel or 'good news' of suffering. The Pope explains that Jesus is the author of this Gospel, which the Church has handed down from its earliest days: 'The witnesses of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ have handed on to the Church and to mankind a specific Gospel of suffering. The Redeemer himself wrote this Gospel, above all by his own suffering accepted in love, so that man 'should not perish but have eternal life.' This suffering, together with the living word of his teaching, became a rich source for all those who shared in Jesus' sufferings among the first generation of his disciples and confessors and among those who have come after them down the centuries.'" Schroeder makes two key distinctions: suffering for Jesus, and suffering with Jesus. We need to rekindle the traditional understanding of redemptive suffering. If not, the Gospel of Life will not make sense and we will compromise human life at its end with things like "death with dignity" or "euthanasia." I recently learned of someone who received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With heroic trust this man saw it as God's will and allowed all his sufferings to be united to Jesus for the conversion of his family and for the intentions of the Lord. Here is some more wisdom from Schroeder: "While the Gospel of suffering allows us to transform our suffering into something good by enduring trials for the sake of Jesus, it also reveals a second way-suffering in union with Jesus. According to John Paul, Jesus invites us to partake in His suffering: 'Follow me! Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross!' This powerful message points to the great mystery of faith that we can join our suffering to Jesus' saving passion and death. According to the Pope, this sharing of suffering is possible only becaue Jesus engrafts us into His Body-a reality that becomes actualized in a special way through our regeneration in Baptism and our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist. John Paul writes:...'in the act of Baptism, which brings about a configuration with Christ, and then through his Sacrifice-sacramentally through the Eucharist-the Church is continually being built up spiritually as the Body of Christ. In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way is united with those who suffer.' Here, the pope explains that because Jesus truly lives in us, we can share in His Suffering-a truth about which St. Paul expressed his conviction: 'I have been crucified with Christ, is is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'....To suffer with Jesus as members of His Body is not merely possible for us as Christians, but it is our vocation within God's plan of salvation. In the words of John Paul: 'The Redeemer suffered in place of man for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished.'....John Paul bases his teaching on the wisdom of Catholic tradition, rooted in a careful reading of St. Paul, who says that our suffering-when joined to the redemptive suffering of Jesus-can become productive and useful. The apostle writes:'Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church. (Col 1:24)'" There was nothing lacking in Christ's suffering but this is the exceptional thing about Catholicism. Aside from seeing the event of Jesus as a one time event, we see it as still very much alive throughout history. Hence, every age has had what the church understands to be "victim souls". These are heroic individuals, psychologically healthy, who through a tremendous love of Jesus, begin to take on some of his sufferings-sometimes even literally. Padre Pio, St. Gemma Galgani, Mary "little rose" Ferron, St Francis of Assisi, St Faustina, Marthe Robin are just some who have been known to carry the wounds of Jesus in their body. Not only did they bear the hand and feet wounds, they were also known to experience the crowning of thorns and even the wound marks from the scourging. Scientists have authenticated these phenomena and they stand as a "sign of contradiction" to a world that rejects the Gospel of suffering, and the cross. Prayerfully listen to the following words from Our Lord to a mystic, a privileged soul named Sr. Mary of the Holy Trinity, a Poor Clare nun who lived in Jerusalem from 1901-1942: " I desire an army of apostolic souls consecrated to me by the vow of victim, not to expiate the sins of others by extraordinary trials; no, that is not my desire. I desire a great army of victim souls who will join me in the Apostolate of My Eucharistic Life, who bind themselves by the Vow of Victim to choose the methods which I chose: silence-immolation-radiating the triumph of the Spirit, so that My Spirit may spread and so that they may reveal something of My Kingdom,, where every soul is called and awaited. I desire an army of victim souls who will confine their efforts to imitating my apostolate: I am the Master: I have been the servant of all. The Vow of Victim will give them the strength of a greater fidelity to be the servants of all-so that My Spirit may spread and the world may believe my words. I desire these victims to be everywhere: in the world and in the cloisters; in every occupation, in every station of life, in the fields and in factories, in schools and in stores, in families and in convents, in business and in the arts, that their fidelity may bear witness to My words. Souls who offer themselves as victims are much more closely united to Me-the more I love a soul, the more I desire to associate her with my apostolate-look at My Saints and look at My Mother....Then I can ask of them-and I can give to them....I ask four things of the souls who bind themselves more closely to me by the vow of victim: 1) to listen to Me more than to speak to Me; 2) to strive to reproduce My actions-My way of acting rather than My words; 3) to be before men as they are before God in a state of poverty that begs-not in a state of spiritual wealth that gives alms of its superfluity..4) to confine their efforts to spreading My Spirit, My gentleness, and My kindness which does not dwell on evil, but overcomes evil by good." If you wish to read more, TAN publishers has the book The Life and Message of Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity. In summary, suffering is a lack of good; however, for Christians, if united with the cross of Christ it can become a powerful force for overcoming evil everywhere in the world. Jesus wills that all be saved. Are you willing to offer yourself to Him so that He may use you for His purposes? He waits....

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