A Vision of Suffering Transformed
4th Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2019
I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. These are the ones who have survived the great time of distress and have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This Sunday’s second reading is very optimistic: a great multitude can be seen around the throne of God, praising him night and day. They are immortal: they will never be hungry or thirsty again; they will never know pain or distress; they will never cry again; they will never be sick; they will never be inconvenienced.
Who are these people and how did they get here? These people have been through something for God. They have been through the great tribulation, otherwise known as life. Nobody likes to suffer! In our world, without faith, we can think that suffering is the worst possible thing that can happen to us. This is not true. Being excluded from heaven is the worst thing that can happen to us!
How can we hold the palm branch of victory in our hands in the next world if we haven’t been through something for Christ in this one? In our lives, suffering is inevitable. Scripture teaches us that our earthly lives are not meant to be spent simply pursuing the path of least resistance, but to have a life that is dedicated to the Lord!
What kind of path did Jesus follow? Simply this; a life that matched the will of God. God’s will is that we know that our sufferings are temporary; heaven is eternal. We are called to choose heaven every day: to choose Christ every day. And when God permits us to suffer, it is only because in the long run, he has our best interests at heart. Any suffering that is offered to Christ will one day be exchanged for gifts in eternal glory!
The early Christian martyrs kept this vision of Revelation close to their hearts because they lived in a time of grave difficulties for the faith. We, too, live in such a time, and even though most of us will not be asked to give our blood for Christ, we can unite our sufferings to his, knowing that he will exchange them for gold.