By Fr. Roy Cimagala
ON the Memorial of the Passion of the St. John the Baptist, celebrated on August 29, we are reminded that we should be willing to suffer and even to be martyred for Christ. In this regard, we should learn to lose the fear of suffering and death, which we should expect anytime, because these will surely come if we indeed would like to follow Christ to the end.
We need to appreciate better the unavoidable condition of our life here on earth that will always involve some suffering in one form or another, and eventually our death. If we would only adapt the mind and attitude of Christ toward human suffering and death, we know that such condition can transform itself from being a curse to being a cure.
If we truly follow and love Christ, we would be willing to suffer and die for our beloved who in the end is none other than God, and because of God, is also everybody else. Said in another way, suffering is a clear proof that we are with Christ and that we are truly in the dynamic of real love.
Thus, we all need to be reminded that all our suffering has a positive and favorable aspect. It’s not all entirely bad and negative, though in itself it will always be bad. But if viewed and lived through our Christian faith, there is something in it that can give us a greater good. We may refer to this advantageous aspect of suffering as the happy Good News or the Gospel of Suffering.
We have to remind ourselves though that we are not actually meant to suffer. Our original as well as our ideal definitive state in heaven excludes suffering. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were in the state of original justice, where everything was in order and in harmony. No pain and suffering touched them, until they fell into sin. They were not meant to die.
And as the Book of Revelation would put it, in our definitive state of life in heaven “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21,4)
In this life, we have to expect and be prepared for the unavoidable pain and suffering. And this means that whether we are guilty or not of our pains and suffering, all we have to do is to go immediately to Christ who shows us how to handle our pains and suffering and who is ready to forgive us if ever we are deserving of suffering due to sin.
It’s true that God is always offended by our sin, and will somehow show his anger and disappointment to us. But let’s never forget that with him, anger would only be for a moment, while his mercy is forever. (cfr. Ps 30,5)
It would be good that everyday we have to expect some suffering which would be a clear sign that we are with Christ and are joining him in his redemptive mission. We should be quick to unite our suffering with that of Christ on the cross, and thus convert our suffering as the very proof of real love!
This is how we can be realistic with respect to the unavoidable suffering and death in our earthly sojourn.