Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 21
Suffering Becomes the Means by Which We Embrace the Will of God for Us in This Life, for Suffering Is at the Very Heart of Our Personal Holiness; It Is the Means By Which We Are Made Witnesses of Our Lord’s Own Suffering and Sharers in the Glory to Come.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ human nature was beginning to feel anxiety about the Passion He was soon to endure, and He uses this opportunity to teach and strengthen His followers –
“Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
The timeline for today’s Gospel Reading is just after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem amid cries of “Hosanna!” The chief priests and the Jewish authorities were plotting to have Him killed, and there was a certain amount of tension amidst His disciples. And Jesus says to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
When we reflect upon the life of faith which each of us lives in our day-to-day activities, how do we reflect upon the suffering which each of us endures at times? How do we reflect upon the afflictions which affect our loved ones? To admit apprehension and a certain amount of anxiety or trepidation is a normal human response.
Our Lord was no different. Yes, He has two natures – one completely Divine and Glorious, which experiences none of the weaknesses of the human flesh. But the second is completely man, completely human, just like any one of us! He would become hungry, tired, cold, sweaty, and He would experience pain – an unpleasant and undesirable feeling for anyone, unless one begins to reflect upon the glory which pain can realize for us!
And Jesus explains to us in today’s Gospel the true value of suffering, beginning with our Lord, Himself, as the innocent Lamb being led to the slaughter, and also the idea that suffering for each of us is a reality which we are called upon to accept and embrace as His faithful followers –
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”
In essence, our Lord was explaining that suffering holds within itself great value for both our soul and for others. It is a form of spiritual purification, a spiritual cleansing which places us on a road to interior perfection – a state which we shall never fully attain in this life!
For it is only when our soul is glorified by God’s Love and Mercy, in which we are rewarded with the gift of eternal life in His Kingdom, and we begin to look back upon the life of faith that we lived on Earth, whereby we truly begin to realize the wondrous graces which our soul earned for itself and others through a heart which was opened to and accepting of the different crosses we were each called to bear in this life – all as a result of our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
And the author of the Letter to the Hebrews was aware of this, which we find in our Second Reading today, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
For those who suffer (and I am no stranger to this, as I have had numerous surgeries over the past 15 years to alleviate or repair certain physical conditions my body was subjected to, and God has always been there to support and strengthen me), the cross can seem heavy at times, and when we become witnesses to the suffering our loved ones must endure, the burden can even become greater!
Yet, from the perspective of a faith-filled heart, suffering reveals to us the very Mercy of God, and makes manifest His loving and consoling Presence, for our souls are purified and, for an opened and receptive heart, our faith is strengthened knowing that we are truly sharing in Christ’s own Passion!
Suffering can become a mystery for many. And for those whose faith is weak or empty, suffering becomes an antagonist to be done away with, an adversary to be eradicated.
Yet, from the very beginning of Christianity, suffering was seen by many of the saints and martyrs as a doorway which brought us ever closer to the Merciful Heart of Jesus Himself, especially when the sufferings were offered up to God’s providential Love to be joined with our Lord’s sufferings, for it allowed us to mentally stand next to Christ as sharers in His own Passion!
And for a Christian to truly feel and believe this, then the words from our First Reading truly take upon themselves a profoundly deeper meaning, “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD.”
As we begin our Fifth Week of Lent, less than two weeks from Good Friday, God is asking us to gaze upon the Cross and feel the Love which He has for all of His children – and the Mercy which He desires to bestow upon each of us.
Through the Cross, our Lord teaches us, in a whole new light, what it truly means to be Christ-like, not just by living a virtuous and holy life, but by embracing that mystery which brings us ever closer to the Heart of our Lord, Himself – the mystery of suffering.
In Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
And this “power” produces within the heart of a faithful follower of Christ a deeper awareness of God’s Love for us, and a more meaningful appreciation of the healing graces provided by our own sufferings.
As you and I continue our own journey of faith – not just during this Lenten season, but throughout the remainder of our lives – may we begin to open our hearts to the great value to which the mystery of suffering draws us and makes available to us.
For our suffering is transformed by the very Presence of Christ, Himself, into grace-filled moments, in which we become conformed more and more to the very Heart of our Merciful Savior, in which we become more conformed to His own Perfection!
Suffering then becomes for you and me the means by which we embrace the will of God for us in this life, for suffering is at the very heart of our personal holiness. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of Jesus’ own suffering and sharers in the glory to come!
Our Lord says to you and me today, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
And may each of us reflect upon the words which Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris [Redemptive Suffering] in February 1984 –
“…Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”
May our Lord’s Cross become the invitation for each of us to joyfully pick up our own crosses, for they shall, one day, become our gateway to an eternity of endless love, peace and happiness!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep and strengthen you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” (John 12:23)
- “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” (John 12:24-26b)
- “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:31-32)
- “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
- “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:33bc, 34b)
- “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
- “…whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)
- “Not only that, we rejoice in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
- “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Prayer for the Day
“My Jesus,Saint Maria Faustina (Diary, § 1065)
support me when difficult and stormy days come,
days of testing, days of ordeal,
when suffering and fatigue begin to oppress
my body and my soul.
“Sustain me, Jesus,
and give me strength to bear suffering.
Set a guard upon my lips
that they may address no word of complaint to creatures.
“Your most merciful Heart is all my hope.
I have nothing for my defense but only Your Mercy;
in it lies all my trust.”