Sunday, June 23, 2013

It is precisely in the crucible of intense suffering that we either come close to God or rebel against his loving presence.

"The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will -- above, below, without, or within -- you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown. - Thomas a' Kempis

(Gospel Text: LK 9:18-24)
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Most of us when we suffer wonder, why me. Why do I have to suffer?  The meaning of life will be become clearer to us when we realize that we will find purpose in life when our search leads us from why to whom. 

Suffering does have a human face to it.

We have only to look at our Lord Jesus crucified on the Cross and there we will find the meaning of our existence and the answer to our searching and longing.

In our suffering we demand answers.  We are not satisfied with pietistic platitudes such as "just offer it up" or "you will be just fine."  Suffering, especially chronic physical sickness, deep emotional pain and death itself, causes a personal crisis that forces us to go deep into ourselves and ask those questions that are most fundamental to our human existence. 

Undoubtedly there are many forms of suffering that are quite mysterious.  However, the need to carry our cross as an essential dimension of Christianity does not take away the need and the duty to seek cures for illnesses and to make this life a better life for everyone.  

Although human progress might make this earth a better place for everyone, suffering, in one form or another, will always be a part of our existence. 

The meaning of suffering only makes sense when we contemplate Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  

When we ask the question why, we need only look upon the crucifix.  It is there that we will find the meaning of suffering and the exact reason why we too must carry our own cross.  

I would like to end this reflection as it began, with the words of Thomas a' Kempis:

“If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but here there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one" (The Imitation of Christ, 2:12).”

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