My Suffering Has Meaning Too
Holy Week, 2023
Life has a way of keeping most of us very busy, whether it is work, school, family, things to do, health issues or crises of one kind or another. Perhaps we are suffering or unemployed, grieving or in distress. At other times we are joyous, excited, and things are going well. Yet, ultimately, each person on earth has to answer the same question: what meaning does life have? What is the purpose of my life? What value (if any) do my struggles and sufferings have?
All these mysteries are caught up in the great events of Holy Week. Year after year we hear the Passion of Christ retold to us on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and always the Lord wishes us to know that God went through all of this out of love for me. We may at times doubt that God loves us, but here we find Jesus accepting all this suffering just so we could be forgiven by God and have a real relationship with him. He wishes us to recognize that by faith in him we are restored to the status of sons and daughters of God. In meditating on the Passion of Jesus we find the answers to the meaning of life, the depth of God’s love for us, and a hint of the meaning of our own trials and sufferings.
Often when I visit the sick, the dying, or the chronically ill, the person in bed will feel helpless, useless, a burden to others. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Scripture tells us that these times when we are granted a share in the passion of Christ are the very times of the very greatest potential of union with Christ by acceptance of our cross, just as Christ accepted his, if only we are able to recognize our opportunity when Christ offers it to us. This is why it is so important for us to meditate on the passion of Christ, because our sufferings have precisely as much meaning as Christ’s did, and no less.
A person who is sick or in distress takes on the role of Christ on the cross. When we visit or support the sick by prayers, a visit or an act of kindness, it is always Christ that we are assisting. At these times, we are like the faithful who stayed by the foot of the cross, supporting Christ who has taken the form of the person who is suffering. To love and assist the ill is to love Jesus Christ.
Far from being useless, to be the one who is sick is our turn to share in the cross which brings salvation to the whole world. Our illnesses allow others to be kind to Christ by being kind to the one who is sick. In fact, everything that is done (whether good or evil) to one of our brothers or sisters who is ill is to do this to Christ himself. When I am sick, I allow Christ, through me, to offer others, whether family, friends, caregivers or strangers, to do something directly for Christ. It is often the greatest role we will ever fulfill in the ongoing drama that is each human life.