Tuesday, April 21, 2015


This appeared in my parish bulletin for the Second Sunday of Easter (April 12, 2015):

I have a friend who is suffering greatly.  She is very spiritual about her suffering and seems to have found a truly Christian way to embrace it.  How can we best understand suffering?
                                                                                        A Sympathetic Christian

Dear Sympathetic,

Mother Teresa tells us this about suffering: Suffering will never be completely absent from our lives.  If we accept it with faith, we are given the opportunity to share the passion of Jesus and show him our love.  She tells this story: "One day I went to visit a lady who had terminal cancer.  Her pain was tremendous.  I told her, 'This is nothing but Jesus' kiss, a sign that you are so close to him on the cross that he can kiss you.' She joined her hands and said, 'Mother, ask Jesus not to stop kissing me.'"

The Book of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures gives us the classic approach to suffering.  Job was inflicted with great suffering.  He was able to find meaning in his suffering only when he stopped scolding God and complaining to God.  Job suddenly started to see the beauty and mystery of all the life that surrounded him.  He began to see that every part of God's creation was marvelous.  He found that knowing and accepting God was more important than finding the answers to why he suffered.  Job testified, "By his light I walked through darkness." (Job 29:3).

Jesus brought a new notion to suffering: for Jesus, suffering is redemptive.  When we suffer, we can link our experience with the Lord's.  Our sufferings then have a redeeming place in the salvation of the world.  They can bring a miraculous presence into the life of another.  In times of trial, Jesus is the companion and the guide who can lead us through.

                                                                                    Rev. William J. Parker, S.Ss.R.

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