Saturday, March 31, 2012
Blog # 233 Suffering. Our culture today in the U S certainly does not seem to place much value on suffering. Just consider the volume of ads in the newspapers and on TV for pain relievers. Yet pain and suffering, physical, psychological, and spiritual do not go away. They seem to be a given in our human experience, for the saint and the sinner. I have found a few Biblical texts particularly useful for myself and others as a background for reflecting upon suffering in the light of our Christian faith and Baptism. Through faith and Baptism we are united with Jesus in a way similar to the way branches are on a vine, and again, in a way similar to the way members of a living body share the life of the body, we share the life of His Body the Church . Romans 8: 18. " I consider the sufferings of the present moment to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us." Ordinarily I have found this text used in reference to the glory of Heaven to be revealed in us after we die. That is surely a legitimate interpretation of the text. I have found a further additional richness and truth in applying it as well to any experience of suffering we encounter today or whenever it occurs for us. My emphasis in this insight is more on the glory than the suffering. For a Christian, suffering can be transformed into the new reality of our sharing with Jesus His unconditional trust and total love for the Father two thousand years ago in history but now by faith in us today or whenever suffering occurs in our human experience. The primary glory here is that of Jesus in His human-divine trust and love, but this same life and love can also be ours personally in our sharing it with Jesus in His presence in us by faith an Baptism. With a sprained back from almost the beginning of Lent this year I have had the opportunity of testing this out, and it works! We have many words that apply to suffering, such as pneumonia, arthritis, cancer of many kinds, a broken leg loneliness, frustration, discouragement etc., etc., etc. These words are useful and essential when we are talking to the doctor. But when we are talking to God a whole new set of words apply, words like trust, patience, courage, thanksgiving, faith, Grace, Thy will be done!, Here I am, Lord; I come to do Thy will, love, Jesus, Father. 1 Cor. 1:15. "As we have shared much in the sufferings of Christ, so through Christ do we share abundantly in His consolation." Here we have an invitation to have the 'mind' or attitude of Christ, as Paul spoke of it to the Philippians in 2:5. We can experience suffering when we are at the time innocent of sin, with a clear conscience, or when we are conscious of being guilty of sin. In the first case we stand humble , that is accepting this truth about ourselves united with Jesus as an expression of the Father's will. In the second we stand humbled. seeking to make reparation for our sin. In either case we can share abundantly the consolation of Jesus here and now in doing the Father's will, as Jesus shares it with us united with Him in the truth of His love and obedience. This blog may be about as long as I can hope to hold your attention so I will leave a second instalment on suffering for tomorrow.