Reflection-Week 9

The Power from Above to Suffer
 
As we reflect on this week’s theme, let us bring alive the image of Jesus on the Cross, the perfect model for us to emulate.
 
I started preparing this reflection in the Kandhamal District of Orissa, India, a place where people have suffered much because of their faith in Christ. I was deeply touched and moved as I listened to the following incident that took place in one of the villages of Kandhamal during the violent attack on Christians by fundamentalist forces in the month of August 2008. A Christian was caught by Hindu fanatics and they dragged him to the yard of a temple. He was asked to deny his faith in Jesus and say ‘Jai Ram’ (Hail Ram). Instead he shouted ‘Jai Jesu’ (Hail Jesus). His right hand was cut off. Again they asked him to say ‘Jai Ram’ but he shouted ‘Jai Jesu’. His left hand was cut off. This continued until they beheaded him after having cut off both his legs in the same manner as the hands. How could he suffer and withstand such excruciating pain and still proclaim his faith in Jesus? No doubt, it is ‘the power from above’.
 
Redeeming Power of Suffering 
Suffering in some form or the other is an inevitable part in the life of every human, saint as well as sinner. Our natural tendency is to eliminate all forms of suffering. But since our attitude towards them can make them profitable or unprofitable, it is important to see them in the light of the Gospel, in the light of God’s providence. This is because suffering can get one down or it can bring one closer to God. It can make one resentful and bitter, even blaming God for his/her lot or it can make one conscious of God’s providence at work. It can make one feel self-pity or it can help one to reach out to the world in apostolic and redemptive action.
 
Moreover, suffering in itself has no value; otherwise the Church would not have established so many institutions like hospitals, sanitariums, etc. to alleviate human suffering. The Church does not glorify suffering for its own sake; but to glorify God by the loving acceptance of suffering when the fulfillment of His will entails it.
 
Jesus’ suffering is “substitutive” suffering, suffering instead of us, it is redemptive. Therefore Pope John Paul II said that Jesus has given us the answer to the meaning of suffering not only through His teaching but above all, by His suffering. In the Passion of Jesus, something new has been added to our understanding of suffering; it has been linked with love. Because of the Passion of Jesus, there is a new situation for all human suffering; just as Job was able to say in his sufferings, I know that my Redeemer lives… (Job 19:25). In short, through His redemptive suffering, Christ gave to all suffering experienced by the members of His Mystical Body, the Church, a redeeming power, when accepted and offered up in union with His Passion. Therefore each person, in his/her suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ (Pope John Paul II: Salvifici Doloris, 17-20). 
 
Our Daily ‘Cross’ 
The Cross was the instrument chosen by God for the redemption of humankind. That is why Jesus refers to the hardships, fatigue and trials of daily life as the “cross” that we must embrace if we are to be His disciples (Mt. 16:24). Accepting them in union with the Passion of Christ gives us a redeeming power, a redeeming value, a share in the fruits of His Passion. The daily “crosses” or “sufferings” can have an endless list: physical pain, mental anguish, disappointments, depression, humiliations, delays, sickness, poverty, set-backs in business, loneliness, being misunderstood or falsely accused, hardships and fatigue of daily routine, sadness at the death of dear ones, the difficult sacrifices in fulfilling God’s commandments and the duties in our state of life, etc.
 
By accepting, willingly and without complaint, the daily “crosses” or “sufferings” which God in His Providence allows to come our way, we can pay in part the debt that we, or others, have incurred by our sins. Because in His mercy God allows one person to fill up what is lacking in another member of His Mystical Body. St. Paul was filled with the idea of the redemptive power of suffering that he exclaimed: I find joy in the sufferings I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church (Col. 1:24).
 
As members of the Jesus Youth family, we may be aware of a number of weaknesses and shortcomings in our brothers and sisters. During this Jubilee year and especially as we prepare during these days for the Recommitment and Reunion on Pentecost Sunday, can we make a conscious effort to pay in part the debt we as a family have incurred by our sins, failures, etc.? Recently, my eyes welled up when I read a mail from a young woman who had undergone a surgery and was in terrible pain. She wrote ‘Father, just let me know if you have any intentions for which I could offer my pain and suffering’. St. Teresa of Lisieux is well-known for her love for missionaries. Her love translated to action when she offered every bit of her sacrifice, pain and suffering for missionaries. No wonder, today the Church honours her as the patron of missionaries. 
 
Prayers to Action 
Let these days of grace challenge us not only to pray fervently but also to be moved to action. It is true that I may do very well in praying for world peace, but often hesitate to forgive those who have hurt me. How will God then bring about peace on this planet? I see a colleague or a friend who looks depressed and pray for him/her, but do not go out of my way to speak to him/her; then how will he/she experience God’s love and care? I may be in touch with hundreds of JYs from all over the world through different social networks, but hardly find the time to be in touch with the local teams or ministries. I could be a ‘popular’ Jesus Youth leader, resource, etc., someone in great demand except in my family, office, college… Yes, it demands ‘the power from above’ to take up that bit of inconvenience, pain, suffering, ‘cross’, to go that extra mile… to be moved to action… to live in integrity… for our prayers to bear fruits…
 
Rev. Fr. Bitaju Mathew O.Ss.T
Bangalore, India 

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