Our Sufferings Really Do Have Meaning
2nd Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2020
Beloved: Bear your share of hardships for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God. 2 Timothy 1:8
As hard as we try, we simply cannot avoid suffering in our lives. For both religious and non-religious people, suffering is simply part of the human experience. Neither money, television, good health, alcohol nor drugs can insulate us from the cross. Many of us simply do not understand the value of suffering. In the transfiguration, Peter, James and John would have preferred to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus in glory forever. In a sense they were briefly in heaven, and who would want to leave that place? Yet Christ made it very clear to them – and to us – that before we can enter into the incredible glory that will be ours, we must first bear our share of suffering with Jesus by going through the valley of the cross with him.
How often we waste our crosses because we don’t understand their value. We do all we can to get away from them, and yet suffering finds us all the same. Yet Christians (ought to!) know that suffering has intense meaning when it is united to Jesus. Suffering without Jesus, without understanding its value for our spiritual lives or without love can seem meaningless.
Saint Paul said, “In my own sufferings I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” How can anything be lacking in Christ’s sufferings? Christ’s death on the cross was indeed perfect and sufficient, but even after Jesus’ very painful death, there still remains that particular cross that you and Jesus were meant to carry together. Jesus wanted St. Paul--and you--to “share” in his suffering so as to share in his glory. You will have particular crosses that Jesus will offer you. To reject a cross is to have lost that way to love Jesus forever.
Saint Margaret Mary, the great apostle of the Sacred Heart, has a prayer she liked to say when she was suffering, which I pray often and would like to share with you. She used that old Catholic principle of suffering well by “offering it up” to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She said:
“Therefore, you must unite yourselves to the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, both at the beginning of your conversion in order to obtain proper dispositions, and at its end in order to make reparation. In the course of every activity pray as follows: My God, I do this or I endure that in the Heart of Your Son and according to his holy counsels. I offer it to you in reparation for anything blameworthy or imperfect in my actions. Continue to do this in every circumstance of life. And every time some punishment, affliction or injustice comes your way, say to yourself, “Accept this as sent to you by the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to unite yourself to Him.”
By placing a simple prayer such as this in your prayer book and learning it, you too can learn to unite your sufferings to Christ and so share his glory more fully one day.