Books upon books have been written about the problem of suffering. Fr Mike isn’t about to reinvent the wheel in this video, but the wisdom he shares in it echoes that of the saints. What did the saints and martyrs know about suffering that enabled them to endure so much of it? Christ didn’t give them some mystical superpower; he simply gave their suffering a purpose.
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17–19
What a conversation that must have been! As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem with the Twelve just prior to the first Holy Week, Jesus spoke openly and clearly about what would be waiting for Him in Jerusalem. Imagine what the disciples would have thought. In many ways, it would have been too much for them to comprehend at the time. In many ways, the disciples probably preferred not to hear what Jesus had to say. But Jesus knew they needed to hear this difficult truth, especially as the moment of the Crucifixion drew near.
Often, the full message of the Gospel is difficult for us to accept. This is because the full message of the Gospel will always centrally point us to the sacrifice of the Cross. Sacrificial love and the full embrace of the Cross needs to be seen, understood, loved, fully embraced and confidently proclaimed. But how is this done? Let’s start with our Lord Himself.
Jesus was not afraid of the truth. He knew that His suffering and death was imminent, and He was ready and willing to accept this truth without hesitation. He didn’t see His Cross in a negative light. He did not look at it as a tragedy to be avoided. He didn’t allow fear to deter Him. Instead, Jesus looked at His imminent sufferings in the light of truth. He saw His suffering and death as a glorious act of love that He was soon to offer, and, therefore, He was not afraid to not only embrace these sufferings but also to speak of them with confidence and courage.
In our own lives, we are given the invitation to imitate Jesus’ courage and love every time we must face something difficult in life. When this happens, some of the most common temptations are to be angry about the difficulty, or to look for ways to avoid it, or to blame others, or to give into despair and the like. There are numerous coping mechanisms that kick in by which we tend to try and avoid the crosses that await us.
But what if we followed the example of our Lord instead? What if we faced any and every pending cross with love, courage and a willing embrace? What if instead of looking for a way out, we looked for a way in, so to speak? That is, we looked for a way to embrace our suffering in a sacrificial way, without hesitancy, in imitation of Jesus’ embrace of His cross. Every cross in life has the potential of becoming an instrument of much grace in our own lives and in the lives of others. Therefore, from the perspective of grace and eternity, crosses must be embraced, not avoided or cursed.
My suffering Lord, You freely embraced the injustice of the Cross with love and courage. You saw beyond the apparent scandal and suffering and transformed the evil done to You into the greatest act of love ever known. Give me the grace to imitate Your perfect love and to do so with the strength and confidence that You had. Jesus, I trust in You.
Reflect, today, upon any difficulty you are facing. Do you see it in the same way that Jesus sees it? Can you see every cross you are given as an opportunity for sacrificial love? Are you able to embrace it with hope and confidence, knowing that God can bring good out of it? Seek to imitate our Lord by joyfully embracing the difficulties you face and those crosses will ultimately share in the Resurrection with our Lord.