I don’t get it. At least not as I would like to. (a) How can suffering be accepted as good? And (b) How can my suffering be connected with that of You, Jesus, and offered up for the salvation of the world? Does not compute! Please show me.
- You said For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Mt 7:8] Well, I’m asking, seeking, knocking.
- You said: Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you. [Mt 13:11] This is certainly one of those mysteries…why You had to suffer and die to redeem us.
- You said: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Well, suffering is certainly taking up my cross.
- Paul writes: The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. [Rom 8:16-18] “Only if we suffer with You so that we may be glorified with You.” You seem to make suffering a sine qua non!
- Peter writes: But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. [1Pet 4:13] While You have him qualify the type of suffering: whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. [1Pet 4:16], I’m suppose to rejoice exultantly at something that is repulsive to the flesh.
Perhaps that’s at least part of the answer: it may be repulsive to the flesh, but it is to be embraced by the spirit in obedience to You, Father, who have placed it in my life at this time, to give witness to my belief and adherence to You, Jesus, the answer, the reason for living, the Truth, the ultimate sine qua non!
This “obedience” thing seems to be the major reason. Such obedience seems, at least on the surface, like the Charge of the Light Brigade, “Some one had blunder’d: Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do & die, into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.”  But You don’t blunder. All You do is ultimately for my greatest happiness….Is the obedience of suffering a bloodless, though suffering, martyrdom, in the original sense of the word: “witnessing,” actively, passively, witnessing to You, to Your wisdom, to Your love shown in ways I don’t understand but accept? You certainly placed this here, now, for me to endure. Help me understand.
Certainly You didn’t exempt Yourself or Your loved ones from this ordeal. I’m rather sure Mary would have opted out of unwed motherhood by an unbelievable father. And Joseph would have preferred to have his espoused presented without child. They both would have preferred that the teenage Jesus not have gone off on his own and left them frantically searching for three days. You, Jesus, would probably have preferred not to have been cast out into the desert by the Spirit, the same casting out of exorcism and the money changers from the temple. I’m sure it would have been much easier for You to have a place to lay Your head. I’m sure not only that You could have had that cup pass from You, but also that You would not have had to have had such sure and detailed knowledge of exactly the torture You were to undergo so long in advance…what a recipe for sleepless nights! I’m sure Stephen would have preferred not to have been stoned, Paul beheaded or Peter crucified. But in all these instances, the answer is the same: not my will but Yours be done. [Lk 22:42; Mk 14:36] A deep trust, a deep faith, an adamantine belief that Your way, God, was the best way, the only good way, the true way, the way that lead to their greatest happiness and the happiness of the world.
Perhaps another part of the answer is Your training me, helping me, forcing me to let go of my need, my craving, my addiction to controlling everything that happens in my life….and, by my personal ludicrous and vaguely malicious interpretation of the 2nd great commandment, everybody else around me. It’s a type of self-idolizing, actually disobeying the 1st great commandment: “I’m perfect, I know everything, I am god, at least for this corner of the world, and therefore what I say goes.” However, when the rug is pulled out from under me by illness, injury, disaster, etc., You force me to refocus, reevaluate, reestablish communication with You, the source of all help, all healing, all love. Maybe that’s why so many of us become ill just before we die; You want to get our attention, to reconnect, to help us reprioritize before it is too late, to remind us that we are going to be meeting with You soon for our end-of-lifetime evaluation and, if we need to make any adjustments, forgive others and be reconciled with You and they, this is the only time to do it.
I may wander away again, reconstruct my fallen idol of self-sufficiency, let you fade into the background, but for the moment, You are center stage, my Hope, my Savior. I just need Your help to realize, to accept and to retain You there always. Sniffle, sneeze, cough, drip, wheeze, expectorate, sigh. Amen. Alleluia!!!
 Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.