Mar 09, 2020 206 0 Reshma Thomas

Joy in Suffering

Better Not Be a Saint?!

Once I met a distressed mom who confessed her financial struggles, uncertainty about the future of her children and all the predicaments that troubled her. Hoping that the Word of God would not be lost on her, I said, “The Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” Encouraging her to surrender all her worries into God’s hand, I asked her to pray even more. I advised her that recognition of shortcomings paves the way for God to reach our hearts and be drawn closer to Him.

These words seemed to relieve her but after a while she asked a startling question: “I feel that when we are growing closer to God suffering also heaps up. To avoid all those hardships and sufferings, is not it better to not pray as much?” I was stumped. Is that true? I remembered all the saints and their holy lives. Many of them endured severe hardships. This reminded me of the amusing plight of a colleague who tried to inspire his children with stories of the great saints. Each night, beginning with the apostles, he narrated the history of their brave, heroic virtues with great enthusiasm. At the end of the week, his elder daughter blurted out, “Does becoming a saint involve lots of suffering and a painful death? Then I’d better not be one!”

Do or Die

Saint Peter, the rock on which the Church was built, received the crown of martyrdom when he was nailed to the cross with his head toward the ground and his feet raised high. Simon the Zealot is often depicted with a saw, because there is a tradition that he was martyred by being sawn in half. Most of the apostles were crucified, except for Saint John, who miraculously survived after being poisoned and plunged into boiling oil. Is there any saint who comes to mind, that did not suffer?

Do you still dare to have a life deeply rooted in faith? Does the fact that one must bear the cross frighten you from developing a deeper spiritual life? Take heart! For Jesus has already given you the answer.

A life without any crosses is much like a fairytale. When I dodge one, a heavier one may appear right in front of me. This is not reserved for the faithful alone. Everyone, regardless of class, creed or religion is confronted by this conundrum, even atheists and agnostics! Religious or not, people go through adversities in life. What is the difference when faithful people are afflicted?

When I meditate on Christ’s passion and death, my mind often drifts to the movie, “Passion of the Christ.” Here are some of the ways its scenes have profoundly touched my heart.

When You Embrace the Cross …

After confession, I often feel a sweet sensation. My heart soars as light as a feather and I almost float back to the pew to pray my penance and make my resolutions. Strangely, on one occasion I had the opposite experience. Instead of that light and pleasant sensation, I felt weighed down with heaviness and drained of energy. The mere thought of performing necessary, menial tasks overwhelmed me. Looking right at the tabernacle, I closed my eyes and surrendered everything to Jesus. Suddenly, I felt like blood was raining down and I was being washed completely in it. When I opened my eyes, I distinctly heard the words, “Take up your cross … follow Me.”

Jesus is inviting you and me to embrace the crosses in life for love of Him. In the “Passion of the Christ,” when Jesus is forced to carry the cross He first embraces and kisses it, in spite of the soldiers’ mockery. This reminds me to embrace the hardships in life with joy. In that moment, I was deeply strengthened to be joyful even when everything seems to be going wrong around me. When we truly accept the cross, nothing will be too heavy or difficult to face, for He will carry it with us.

Compelled to Carry the Cross

After the birth of my son, I had a grueling time feeding him. Every time I fed him it was so excruciatingly painful that I had to grip the arms of the chair. I wept but I still bore that torment to fill his little tummy. It was not easy. Just when I thought it was intolerable, the image of Jesus on the cross came to mind. I cried out to Him, begging Him to bear this agony with me. All my pain suddenly became bearable. I could still feel it but the grace of God helped me to endure it.

When Simon of Cyrene was called out of the crowd to carry the cross, he may have been resentful, even bitter at first, about the cross he was compelled to bear. He was simply a man on his way to something else when the soldiers pulled him out of obscurity and into the fifth station of the way of the cross. By the end of Simon’s brief journey with Christ, he was changed forever. In the movie, Jesus falls as they carry the cross along the road to Golgotha. Simon quickly picks him up, saying, “We’re almost there! It’s almost over!” It always crushes my heart to see Jesus looking back at him.

Simon felt compelled to remain with Christ, to finish it. Likewise, when we grumble about our suffering, do we really see Jesus holding onto us, taking the entire weight of our sins on His shoulder? In blood-soaked clothes, He treads the path and will accompany us, no matter how bad things may be. When Simon finished the journey to the summit of Calvary, he stood as a witness to the passion and death of Christ on the cross, which yielded the gift of eternal life.

A Drop of Tear from Heaven

At the climax of the “Passion of the Christ” we see a teardrop falling to the ground after the death of Jesus on the cross. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave His only beloved Son to redeem us from our sins. Sadly, many turn away from God in their sufferings, saying that God does not really love us or how could He send us such torments to bear. Little do we realize that most adversities are the aftermath of sins we have committed, or a means of purifying us from even the smallest trace of sin. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning when we offer it to our Heavenly Father. It becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 1521).

Let us not waste a single moment, but valiantly stand up for Christ. “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Saint Padre Pio was once asked if one must ask for more sufferings to live a holy life. He simply replied that we just need to accept all that comes our way joyfully. Each day has its own crosses and delights. By accepting them gladly we are actually participating in the salvific plan of Jesus.

In the words of Saint Thérèse, if we can pick up a pin from the floor for love of God it can surely save a soul. Offer up all your pain and sorrows for those who do not know Jesus or have gone astray. Remember, you cannot avoid the cross but, by embracing it together with Christ, you can turn your affliction into joy. Let us put our treasure in heaven!

Reshma Thomas

© serves on the Editorial Board of Shalom Tidings. She resides with her family in Kerala, India.


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