5 Things To Know About the Offering of Suffering
1. Suffering is a trial that reveals our vulnerability yet, if we allow it, also opens the door to the power of Christ.
"Suffering, in fact, is always a trial—at times a very hard one—to which humanity is subjected. The gospel paradox of weakness and strength often speaks to us from the pages of the Letters of Saint Paul, a paradox particularly experienced by the Apostle himself and together with him experienced by all who share Christ's sufferings. Paul writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: 'I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me'. In the Second Letter to Timothy we read: 'And therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed'. And in the Letter to the Philippians he will even say: 'I can do all things in him who strengthens me'" - St. John Paul II
2. Human suffering united to the Cross of Jesus has supernatural value.
"Those who share in Christ's sufferings have before their eyes the Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, in which Christ descends, in a first phase, to the ultimate limits of human weakness and impotence: indeed, he dies nailed to the Cross. But if at the same time in this weakness there is accomplished his lifting up, confirmed by the power of the Resurrection, then this means that the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ's Cross. In such a concept, to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man's weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self." - St. John Paul II
3. Suffering united to Jesus can be accompanied by spiritual comfort, love and even joy.
God releases great spiritual power through our co-redemptive suffering. Like the saints, we contribute to the conversion of souls, and bring many people to Christ through the offering of our daily sufferings—especially for priests who are charged by God to give the sermons that transmit the faith. St. Thérèse of Lisieux once wrote, “Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons.” Once we understand how co-redemptive suffering can help souls and build up the Kingdom of God, we can experience consolation, love and even joy:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." - St. Paul (2 Corinthians: 3-7)
4. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Sorrows and a source of tremendous consolation as we face the crosses of our lives.
Nobody knew Jesus and his sufferings better than his mother. She accompanies us as a spiritual mother over the course of our lives as we confront various sufferings and challenges. This has been the case throughout history for many generations of Christians, including St. Philomena, a Greek princess martyred by the Roman Emperor Diocletian:
"My captivity lasted thirty-seven days. Then, in the midst of a heavenly light I saw Mary holding her Divine Son in her arms. 'My daughter,' she said to me, 'three days more of prison and after forty days you shall leave this state of pain.' Such happy news renewed my courage to prepare for the frightful combat awaiting. The Queen of Heaven reminded me of the name I had received in Baptism saying, 'You are Lumina, as your Spouse is called Light or Sun. Fear not, I will aid you. Now, nature, whose weakness asserts itself, is humbling you. In the moment of struggle, grace will come to you to lend its force. The angel who is mine also, Gabriel, whose name expresses force, will come to your succor. I will recommend you especially to his care.' The vision disappeared leaving my prison scented with a fragrance like incense. I experienced a joy out of his world. Something indefinable." - St. Philomena
5. In the "school of Christian suffering," our primary textbook is Sacred Scripture.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, can be viewed as a school of both suffering and love. We also enter into this dynamic school at our baptism, when we are plunged into the water symbolizing Christ's death before emerging regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit, on the journey toward resurrection and eternal life in the Holy Trinity. At our current stage in the school of Christian suffering and love, we have recourse to the life-giving words of Sacred Scripture, "a great book about suffering" (St. John Paul II):
"Resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you." - St. Paul (I Peter 5:9-10)
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." - St. Paul (Romans 8:18)