By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WHY? Because in the first place, suffering is a consequence of our sins, not to mention our weaknesses, mistakes, and the fact that we have to contend with a supernatural goal that simply goes beyond our natural human powers.
Suffering is unavoidable in this life. No matter how much we try to avoid or ignore it, it will simply come. In fact, the ultimate suffering that no one is exempted from is death. It will come one way or another, sooner or later.
But if we follow what our Christian faith tells us, suffering indeed holds great value in our life. From something to run away from, it has become a goal to pursue, because as long as our suffering is experienced with the spirit of Christ, it becomes a good news, not a bad news.
Every suffering we have should be an invitation for us to go back to Christ, to be converted again, that is, to identify ourselves with him through the work of the Holy Spirit, so we can effect in our mortal flesh that very transformation that took place in Christ, who died and rose from the dead.
This is the challenge we have—how to go beyond mere human considerations of our suffering so as to savor its ultimate religious value. We need to develop the skill to escape from the self-focusing dynamics of suffering when considered only humanly, to be able to hitch ourselves with the saving dynamics of Christ’s suffering.
Are we just contented with complaining and groaning and moaning when we suffer? Or do we start as soon as we can to enter into the more glorious dimensions that our suffering offers?
When Christ said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” (Mk 8,34) he for sure does not mean that he’s leading us to our self annihilation.
Far from it. It will rather lead us to our self-fulfillment. It is asking us that instead of our own selves, we should have Christ as the center of our attention always, the very core and substance of our consciousness. We need, of course, to exercise our faith to live by this divine indication.
And the reason is simple. Christ is the very pattern of our humanity in its original state and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. It’s him in whom we can have our ultimate fulfillment, our true and lasting joy and peace. That’s why Christ said he is “the way, the truth and the life” for us. We cannot go to God, our Father and creator, except through him.
We have to be wary of certain ideologies, cultures and lifestyles that tend to replace Christ as the cause of our self-fulfillment. Sad to say, these appear to be proliferating these days. We have to learn to do battle with them.
The self-denial asked by Christ will obviously require a lot of effort and sacrifice. That’s because we have to contend with our tremendous tendency to stick to our own selves—our own ideas, desires, ambitions, etc. Besides, this tendency is constantly reinforced now by the many allurements of the world, not to mention, the tricks and wiles of the devil himself.
But again, we can be sure that all this effort and sacrifice is all worth it. We need to do everything to wean ourselves from our own selves and start to rely on Christ completely. That absolute reliance on Christ does not annihilate us. It will simply bring us to our most perfect and ideal state.
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