The Suffering Christian
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005
How many times have you been aware of some suffering both in your own life or in the life of another and felt that it did not make sense. If you were a good Catholic, then you should be free of suffering. How often do you feel others say the same. Indeed, if you remember the Tsunami, many felt that it was proof that God did not exist. Yet, not only is that not true, the Book of Revelation says that such things would happen and people instead of turning to God, would curse God as a result. This is exactly what happened.
St. Peter in his first letter says that not only may one suffer as a Christian, he says expect it. Yet he also tells us why. Listen to these words. "For a little while you may suffer through various trials."
This letter was written in the First Century by again one of Jesus' contemporaries. Therefore, we can say from the earliest days of our faith, the idea that, if I am living my faith, my life will be without difficulties, has been a false teaching. It is just not the Christian faith. Indeed, St. Peter tells us, that we will have difficulties. Then he tells us why: so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. By the way, who is it who will be glorified at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The answer is not Jesus, he is already glorified. It is you.
FRUITS OF SUFFERING
Your sufferings are forming you and leading you to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be agents of God.
This is an important lesson because we live in a society that works desperately to avoid suffering at all costs. We will even kill instead of suffer. We will kill animals through animal experimentation and we will kill people, through abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. Whatever it takes to avoid suffering we will do as a race. The more we work to avoid suffering the more worldly we become.
Now this does not mean that we seek after suffering. We are not masochists. We do not have to be. It does mean that suffering is redemptive to others and to ourselves.
This is a hard lesson to remember for all of us, including myself. How much suffering have we endured as Catholics over the past four years? All of that, if we allow it to be so, is for our glorification. It is further so that Christ may work through you and lead others to come to know the truth. Yet look at your own personal suffering. What do you experience and why? Are you running from it, or are you turning to Christ and embracing it.
You can name the suffering, a disease, daily aches and pains, depression or other forms of mental or physical illness, financial troubles, political problems persecution, imprisonment, death of a loved one. The list as you know is endless. Yet, all of it is transformed in Christ.
How do we do that? We keep focused on Christ. We become aware the nothing can separate us from his love, we trust his action in our lives and we trust that he is with us every step of the way. Most important we bring our suffering to our daily prayer, we keep it in mind in our daily bible reading, meditation and if possible mass attendance.
There is something here I have to correct however. We get into the idea when there is some suffering that it is a test. That somehow things normally go well and occasionally to make sure we are getting the message God gives us a test. Suffering is suffering it is part of the instability of earthly life. God does not send it upon us so that we may pass a test. He uses it, as Peter says, as a smelter uses to heat to purify the gold.
IN FIRE GOLD IS TESTED
The book of Sirach, only found in a Catholic Bible by the way, reminds us that it is in fire that gold is tested and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.
The saints preach this all the time. St. Rose of Lima, the first saint of the Americas taught that if people knew how much their difficulties led them closer to Christ, they would ask for more of them. St. John of the Cross who spent nine months in prison over a dispute wrote his poem of the Dark Night of the Soul in that dark time. This poem and expression have led us through some really dark times in the Church over the past five hundred years and more so the last one hundred.
The concept that the better we are the better off we are in this world is a heresy so old it predates our species. Refuting that belief we know is a theological task at least as old as the Book of Job.
Worldly people run from suffering; Christians run through it. Worldly people plan on the stability of this world, Christians expect the end of this world at any time and the stability of life with Christ in eternal joy.
Whatever is you are suffering or will suffer, bring your pains, worries, and struggles to Christ and allow him to use them for your purification. This is so that you may be made as precious as the finest gold in the eyes of our Lord and Savior and all in the kingdom of God.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - parochial vicar, 617 625-0029
suffering, St. Peter
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