I think it’s safe to say that in our lives there will be some difficult moments. There will be some suffering.
In this Gospel passage we hear our Lord telling St Peter that Our Lord is heading to the cross. (cf Mark 8:27-35)
Saint Peter reacts in a way that perhaps we react when we face suffering: he rebukes our Lord.
Our Lord reminds St Peter and his disciples and each one of us that if we wish to follow Jesus, we must deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Jesus. To be His follower it is not enough to have a blaze of excitement and then quit. It’s a long distance run, not a sprint.
I could list litanies of different suffering. Each of us has some form of a suffering right now, and in the future. Part of God’s mercy is He does not allow us to see the future and what we will face. He gives us enough grace for the present moment. Jesus entered into the depths of human suffering, and through baptism, we are incorporated into Christ. Thus we can truly say we share in the suffering of Christ. It is Christ in us who suffers. It is in this weakness that we too are lifted up onto the cross, which is the instrument of salvation. One of the hardest parts of suffering is the feeling of being alone. You and I are never truly alone, though.
What does our Lord mean when he says “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”?
It means living life as if there’s no tomorrow—to be a slave to one’s passions, to live only for oneself. In the words of Saint John (cf 1John 2:16), to be controlled by the lust of the eyes, the flesh, and the pride of life.” To live life as if God and others do not exist.
To lose one’s earthly life is to live for God: to mortify these passions and desires, to desire the things that are God’s, and not to live for the things of the earth. To order our lives remembering we are simply passing through. Love entails sacrifice. If you love somebody, you will in some way say no to yourself and say yes to the other person.
So when we experience some suffering it is helpful to keep this call to eternity in mind: God is calling us to share in the cross in order to co-redeem with Christ. In the passion, what was a brutal form of execution and torture has been changed into a victory: Christ conquers sin and death. Those little frustrations of daily life or that terminal diagnosis and everything in between is a great opportunity to allow our own selfish will to die and to abandon ourselves more and more into the hands of God, who desires our salvation. It is saying “no” to my own will, and “yes” to abandon ourselves into God’s hands, to allow this suffering to bring about some spiritual good. It is in our weakest moments that we see how God is the only one with the strength to handle our suffering. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote a very helpful letter on the meaning of suffering. If you are going through some suffering and want to read this, look up “john Paul ii letter on suffering” or ask me and I can get a copy to you. It is very helpful.
We are given great strength in suffering knowing how close God is to us in the Eucharist. These days of 40 hours devotion are a great time to simply be with our savior hidden in the Eucharist. The other day I was speaking with some people and they confirmed something for me: a husband and wife not always need to be talking. There is a deep friendship, a deep communion, that happens in silence.
When we come to Eucharistic Adoration, we don’t need to come with a prepared text. We could certainly bring a holy book—a bible or some prayers or the writings of the saints, but ultimately these should serve as a springboard of prayer. We need to come and sit in silence, pouring out our heart, interceding for the whole world. We can offer our time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to atone for the evils that are being committed even at that very moment. There is a lot of talk these days, but ultimately what we need is prayer. We need to pray for those who are suffering, knowing that one day we too will have to face one trial or another, and what a great comfort it will be to know there is an army of souls interceding to God for us and lifting us up.
Today we celebrate our Lady of Sorrows. The Blessed Mother did not doubt that our Lord would have to suffer. She knew, and she did not rebuke Him. There she stood at the foot of the cross and she experienced a real death herself as she saw her beloved Son die on the cross. She was strong because she totally abandoned her life into God’s hands. She wants to stand by our side to help us to do the same: the more we abandon ourselves into God’s hands in the midst of suffering, the greater peace we will find.