27 July 2020

The Cost of Discipleship is the Folly of the Cross

cosmic suffering Archives - Existence of GodSuffering, as St Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 4.12-19, is part and parcel to our decision to follow Christ.  He says, ‘...those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful Creator as they do good.’ - 1 Peter 4.19  Earlier in the text, he reminds us not to ‘...be surprised that a trial of fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.  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.  If you are insulted for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let no one among you be made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the Name.  For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God?

“And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?”  As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful Creator as they do good.’  - 1 Peter 4.12-19

Suffering - A Misunderstood Gift? - Catholic Woman CEOAll our human existence, we’ve been taught, ‘Suffering is bad.  Pain is not okay,’ and therefore we shy away, treating suffering as something to be avoided, like not wanting to touch bare skin to a hot surface.  As Catholics, suffering, we’re taught, should be welcomed as a gift.  Wait, though . . . How is that possible?!  Suffering = uncomfortable = to be accepted, as in WELCOMED?!  That doesn’t make sense!  Or… does it?

I’ve been wrestling with this for several days now, how to write this meditation.  I’ve come to the conclusion that what seems to be completely backwards logic, makes absolute sense.

St. Bridget of Sweden's Famous Devotion to the 5480 Wounds of ...Our Beloved Lord Suffered 5,480 Wounds and Died on the Cross for us to be able to sanctify us and give us a way to be united with Him in eternity.  Not once did He utter a single protest what He’d been through.  He knew this had to be done, so He did so willingly, out of such a deep, unfathomable Love He has for us.  He had warned, all throughout the Gospels, that not only would He face tremendous pain, but we, His followers, will, too, because of Him.  This is hard to wrap our heads around, no doubt, but if He was so willing to Suffer for us, He is willing to comfort us as we face our own pain.

Despite the fact we break His Most Sacred Heart, He never leaves us to figure things out on our own.  Even though suffering is absolutely part not only of life as a generality but part of our Christian life, this is how He sanctifies us.  In a strange – but real – way, this is how He makes Saints.  This is, quite literally, what it means to ‘do our purgatory on earth,’ because when we keep our focus on Him, we can do anything, as we’re reminded in St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, ‘I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength!’ - Philippians 4.13

The shared beliefs of a divided America - Washington PostThe strange thing about seeing suffering as the gift it really is, is something that unites us in such an incredibly intimate way, and He wants us to not just call out to Him for help, but to offer our pain, willingly, to Him so He can enter into those places and heal us.

The thing about suffering, too, is a way to strengthen our faith.  We aren’t ever alone when we’re facing things, we also must remember, too, that whatever we go through, we’re not the only one who will go through that specific pain.  Maybe one day, we will encounter a person who’s trying to navigate that situation we ourselves have come out of stronger for it and can come alongside that person and be able to say, ‘I get it!  I have been there!’

Jesus' Agony in the Garden | The Word Among UsWhen our Beloved Lord Suffered His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took onto Himself all of our lived experiences, so we could be comfortable enough to come to Him and say, ‘I’m hurting!  Please, Jesus, help me!’ and know that He does understand.  We don’t go to anyone who can’t relate to the pain we’re trying to understand.  Rather, we seek out those who’ve been through those things and ask them, ‘How did you not lose hope?’ and know the answer they will receive won’t be some Hallmark nonsense.  Spoiler:  being on the receiving end of the contents of a greeting card as a means of support isn’t ever helpful.  ;)

Good News for a Weary World: HELP ME JESUS
Our Beloved Lord won’t respond with greeting card sentiment.  We can come to Him with all confidence that He’s been there and He does understand from first-hand experience, and He will come alongside us and pull us out of our despair, just like when St Peter joined Him on the water in the storm and he looked away for a split second and began to sink, crying out, ‘Save me!’ - Matthew 14.22-33  Our Lord is readily there to meet us where we are, telling us to ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest!  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’  - Matthew 11.28-30

189 Best Tattoos images in 2020 | Tattoos, Love tattoos, Cute tattoosAnother thing we need to remember about the sanctifying grace and gift of suffering is something God can and does use for His glory and the benefit of all who love Him, as St Paul reminds in his letter to the Romans:  ‘We know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the Image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined He also called; and those He called He also justified; and those He justified HE ALSO GLORIFIED.  What then shall we say to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He Who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?  Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?  It is God Who acquits us.  Who will condemn?  It is Christ [Jesus] Who Died, rather was Raised, Who also Is at the Right Hand of God, Who indeed intercedes for us.  What will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will anger or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  As it is written: “For Your Sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him Who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  - Romans 8.28-39

This is one of my favourite letters in the entire New Testament, and this little chunk of text has kept me afloat for a long time in my own difficult and outright painful experiences.

Our Beloved Lord loves us beyond human understanding.  He loves us to help.  We just need to ask and be ready and willing to conform to what He wants, trusting that ‘He won’t leave us, nor forsake us.’  - Hebrews 13.5

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