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The value of redemptive suffering

I was speaking with a friend who is a devout Catholic about her upcoming surgery to remove cancer from her breasts. It will be a very scary and painful experience, and she is terrified about it. She proceeded to describe other horrific situations of suffering in her family, all of which have come about since the beginning of Lent. After she went through the grizzly details of their injuries and illnesses of the past two weeks, my first reaction was, “wow, what a Lent for your family.” We then went on to discuss the valuable and consistent Catholic theme of redemptive suffering which you find mentioned below. In short, this means that God is allowing her and her family to share in the suffering of Christ which brings redemption to the world.

Continuing with the meditations on the Stations of the Cross which are below and were written by Michael R. Heinlein at www.simplycatholic.com, we reflect on the suffering of our Lord and our own suffering. When I say that redemptive suffering is consistent, I mean that we experience on a regular basis opportunities to “offer it (suffering) up” for the salvation of others as Christ did. When we meditate on the Stations of the Cross, we reflect on the scary and painful agony that Christ endured for us and the similar afflictions that we now have to endure for him.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

 

Suffering with Christ

On his way to Calvary, Christ experienced the sufferings ordinary men and women experience every day throughout the world. He showed not only how to deal with them, but through the power of love how to transform suffering’s destructive power into

something life-giving. In Christ’s passion and death, St. John Paul II wrote that Jesus “has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions” (Salvifici Doloris, No. 31).

Meditating on the Stations of the Cross exposes Christ’s suffering heart — “sorrowful even to death” (Mk 14:34). In his condemnation to death, Christ teaches that we have the freedom to accept life’s sorrows. He does not let condemnation be levied upon him, but rather he chooses it out of love. Taking up his cross, Christ models how to accept suffering as an act of love in obedience to God’s will.

Christ falls three times on the way to Calvary. The sufferings due to sin in our lives continually cause failure. In falling himself, Christ shows that, despite suffering’s tendency to bring us down, discouragement can be overcome by dependence on God’s grace. Christ teaches us how to persevere through the failure and exhaustion through which our suffering inevitably leads and be of one heart and mind in pursuit of the Father’s will. Such is redemptive suffering — as the old saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

Christ’s way to Calvary illustrates, too, how God graces us with models of love in the midst of our suffering. But like Christ, we must be attentive and receptive to them. The compassion, cooperation and generosity of others — such as Christ experienced in the fourth, fifth and sixth stations — are examples of how love is returned to love. And when unburdened by our own sufferings, through love, each of us can be channels of God’s love through service, like Mary, Simon and Veronica. “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service,” Pope Francis said during World Youth Day in Poland in 2016.

Since life’s road must pass by way of Calvary, this journey of love ultimately entails that we strip ourselves of all that keeps us from God and his will. At the end of his road to Calvary, Christ shows that abandoning ourselves to the hands of providence comes with detachment from all earthly power, pleasure, wealth and honor. The Christian must be unhesitant to cast aside anything necessary to advance the kingdom of God. In this way suffering is a gift that enables us to focus on the new life in Christ that awaits believers. Through the pain of suffering we gain the joy of heaven itself — eternal happiness with God — the gates to which Christ opened for “the many.”

Rooted in Love

In meditating on Christ’s passion and death, through devotions like the Stations of the Cross, comes the realization that life’s sufferings can be joined to Christ’s — by which one learns that love forms suffering’s foundation. “The road is narrow,” St. John of the Cross said. “He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, weeks before he was elected pope following the death of Pope John Paul II, referenced this when he said that Jesus not only taught us how to pray the Stations of the Cross, but also their meaning. “The Way of the Cross is the path of losing ourselves,” he said, “the path of true love.” Suffering expresses love’s total self-emptying required of the disciple. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24).

 

Hope Springs Eternal

The hope of being transformed or transfigured into the image of God awaits all of God’s children. We walk through this life knowing that our eternal destiny is to be like God and live eternally in his presence. How does this truth about who we can become change the way we live today? Does it even matter to us that we are called to a higher purpose that is often quite different than the one we fabricate for ourselves here on earth? A transformed, eternal life is God’s desire for all of his daughters and sons. Knowing this helps us put suffering in perspective and walk peacefully with hope in our hearts.

God never abandons us

When we suffer, we can easily find ourselves thinking that we have been abandoned by God or have done something to displease him and are now paying the price. Suffering is not God’s fault. The reality of suffering and death is much more complicated than this and even somewhat mysterious. When Jesus preached the Gospel, it was made clear that suffering has meaning and always brings with it new life. It requires faith in order to understand this mystery. The Gospel brings us new life both here and in the life to come. This is truly Good News! When this Good News is understood by the believer it stirs within us a passion to urgently preach this healing and life-giving message to others.

Lord, help me

Teasing
Donuts
Parishioners- singing, forgetfulness, driving

Jesus
Fun!
Teasing with woman

Humility
Persistence / perseverance in prayer
Suffering
Faith

“Lord, help me”

Overcoming addiction

Many of God’s children carry the cross of addiction.  There are many types of addiction including alcohol, drugs, gamblings, pornography, eating and smoking addictions.  Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.

People who suffer from addiction have a disease — they are not weak in character and they do not want to be addicted. They have a deep longing to be well.  The guilt and shame that comes with their addiction only feed their addiction, driving them further and further away from any hope of recovery.  Addiction is in fact, a family disease.  Many families suffer quietly in pain from the destruction that addiction has caused.

The biggest barriers to seeking help for addiction can be denial on the part of the individual and a perceived stigma in seeking help.  Increased education and understanding and undoubtedly prayer from everyone in the Church can help break these barriers.

Educating yourself about addiction is a form of self-assessment and a way to find methods of healing and care.  We’ve listed some online resources below, but Fr Greg is also available to offer hope and help to anyone suffering from addiction.  There are 12 step program meetings in the area for anyone wanting to participate as they seek recovery.  If you, someone in your family or a friend is struggling because of someone they know with addictions, Al-anon meetings are a good alternative.

Online Resources

The Goal of Life is Heaven

God has a sense of humor! This is what I thought – and said – when I began to speak at our parish revival night last week. I had never even been to a revival before coming here, and now I’m a revivalist! God is good, so it went well.

People told me afterwards that it hit home with them, so I thought some of what I said might be helpful for you, too.

Heaven was the focus of my remarks.

With all that is going in our world that can bring us down, I thought that a talk on heaven would revive us and lift up our hearts. I spent quite a bit of time on Romans 8:18

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”

Many of you are suffering now in this present time – with physical pain, family problems, death of a loved one, evil in the world, etc. Some days, it’s really, really bad. Please remember that this was St. Paul’s situation. He suffered a ton for Christ. And yet, he wrote that the suffering is “nothing” compared to the glory that is coming.

He’s talking about heaven! The good involved with heaven is much bigger than the bad involved with suffering in this world. I reminded the congregation what Revelation 21 says, that in heaven “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (v. 4). In heaven, it is all good! When the Church talks about the “greater good,” this is to what Romans 8:18 is referring. God allows suffering to bring about a greater good. Ultimately, the greater good is heaven!

So, when you are given a share in the cross of Christ and experience suffering like He did, be assured of the glory of Heaven that will be so much greater than the suffering is bad.

The goal of life is heaven.

Getting to heaven is what it’s all about! The #1 job of any spouse in marriage is to get the other to heaven. From that, of course, means getting the kids to heaven. Is your spouse going to heaven? Are your kids? You should be praying and offering (small) sacrifices every day for their salvation. The second part is commonly known as “offering it up.”

It means to offer up your suffering for the salvation of others. We Catholics believe in redemptive suffering which means that we can join in the redemptive work of Christ by offering up our share in the Cross for the salvation of others.

He offered his suffering for the salvation of the world. God the Father allowed the Son to suffer in order to bring about a greater good (salvation). He wasn’t punishing Christ for anything he had done. He wasn’t angry with him. He actually has infinite love for His Son, and trusted that he could handle the cross.

For anyone who carries their own cross in union with the Cross of Christ, the same is true. God is not punishing you! In fact, your suffering is a sign of God’s love for you. And, He trusts that you can handle offering up your suffering for the salvation of another (perhaps your spouse and kids).

Offer it up!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg