The Happy Priest: Jesus Gives Meaning to Human Suffering
Suffering is a part of human life. Living faith enables us to see it differently by joining it to the sufferings of Christ
Jesus does not take away human suffering; rather he transforms it and gives it new meaning. In his book Compassion, Henri Nouwen, no stranger to sorrow and pain, expresses this idea with these words: "The mystery of God's love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. Out of this divine solidarity comes new life. Jesus' being moved in the center of his being by human pain is indeed a movement toward new life. God is our God, the God of the living. In the divine womb of God, life is always born again. The great mystery is not the cures, but the infinite compassion which is their source"
One of Father's closest friends at the high school was a doctor who taught mathematics in the morning and worked at his medical practice after school hours. The doctor, so immersed in human suffering, noticed that the young priest was becoming overwhelmed by the numerous sick calls and funerals that were becoming part of his ministry.
One day, as the priest was rushing off to take care of the dying grandmother of one his students, the doctor yelled out to him, "Father, let them suffer." Astonished, the priest stopped, and went back to his office. "What do you mean?" asked the priest. "Suffering is a part of life. People need to experience suffering. Don't take that away from them," the teacher affirmed.
In this Sunday's Old Testament reading, Job struggles with the meaning of suffering. "Is not man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages" (Job 7: 1- 2).
Only with Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament, can the human person find meaning in suffering.
"As a result of Christ's salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of eternal life and holiness. And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in his Cross and Resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life, nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence, it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering: the light of salvation" (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Dolores, 15).
Jesus does not take away human suffering; rather he transforms it and gives it new meaning.
In his book Compassion, Henri Nouwen, no stranger to sorrow and pain, expresses this idea with these words: "The mystery of God's love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. Out of this divine solidarity comes new life. Jesus' being moved in the center of his being by human pain is indeed a movement toward new life. God is our God, the God of the living. In the divine womb of God, life is always born again. The great mystery is not the cures, but the infinite compassion which is their source" (page 16).
In this Sunday's gospel passage, Jesus immerses himself into the world of human suffering. "When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all were ill or possessed by demons" (Mark 1: 32).
"Christ drew close above all to the world of human suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon his very self. During his public activity, he experienced not only fatigue, homelessness, misunderstanding even on the part of those closest to him, but, more than anything, he became progressively more isolated, encircled by hostility and the preparations being made for putting him to death. Christ was aware of this, and often spoke to his disciples of the sufferings and death that await him, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.'
Christ goes toward his Passion and death fully aware that his mission would be fulfilled in precisely this way. Precisely by means of this suffering he must bring it about 'that man should not perish, but have eternal life.' Precisely by means of his Cross, he must strike at the roots of evil, planted in the history of man and in human souls. Precisely by means of his Cross, he must accomplish the work of salvation. This work, in the plan of eternal Love, has a redemptive character" (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Dolores, 16).
The second reading from this Sunday's liturgy reminds us that we carry out the apostolate of Jesus Christ by immersing ourselves into the world of human need. "To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some" (1 Corinthians 9: 22).
The Italian photographer Arturo Mari was the Vatican photographer during the entire twenty-seven year pontificate of Blessed Pope John Paul II. At any Vatican function and all of his apostolic journeys around the world, Mari was always present with his camera.
During his 1984 apostolic journey to Korea, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Thailand, Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the Sorokdo Leprosarium on May 4, 1984. Arturo Mari testifies that "he touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one. Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one!"
Father James Farfaglia is the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, TX. Click here and listen to Father's Sunday homily. Visit Father on the web and check out his book Get Serious - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: suffering, mystery of suffering, saving, salvation, pain, cross, healing, mercy, Love, Fr James Farfaglia
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