'A MINI-LENTEN RETREAT' - PART 2- THE CROSS AND THE MYSTERY OF SUFFERING


The appeal of Good Friday – kissing of the cross. The impact this had on the late Sr Clare Crockett. The identification between our suffering, the suffering of the world and his suffering.

My first visit to the holy land and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The first reading at Mass Romans: 6 – being baptized into his death and resurrection. The thought struck me that they were not just historical events but living mysteries operative in the present: ‘If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his’.


Baptism as dying and rising. Entering the tomb with him and rising again. The structure of baptismal fonts in the early Church.

‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ in behalf of his body which is the Church’ (Col. 1:24).


We participate in his passion and death.

St Augustine: the unity of Christ the head with the body of the Church.

Blaise Paschal: ‘Christ is in agony until the end of time’.

The question we often ask ourselves - ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ What we suffer is seldom proportionate to what we deserve. Most of the time it is less or more. Christ as victim – First reading from Isaiah on Good Friday. It is a greater mystery than we can understand. It is not just about us.


Being part of the mystical body of Christ that is the Church: ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it’ (1 Cor. 12:26).

‘Our trials are a profound share in his redemptive suffering for the salvation of the world’ John Paul II, Salvifici doloris, 24.


‘This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond measure’, John Paul II, Salvifici doloris 22.


‘If we have been given some share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice. Because we will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed’. (cf. 2 Cor. 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13).


‘Whatever a good person suffers for God’s sake, he suffers in God and God is with him in his suffering. If my suffering is in God and God suffers with me, how can my suffering be painful when suffering loses its pain and my pain is in God and my pain is God?’ Meister Eckart,


Jesus’ suffering – he wept at the death of Lazarus. He had trials, disappointments and probably knew what it was like to be sick.

The agony in the garden. The suffering of the mind. There Jesus united himself to everyone suffering emotional, mental and spiritual pain. He took all these experiences into the life of God in order to transform and redeem them.

Story of Holy Land visit to Church of all nations. The place of Jesus’ agony on the garden and start of his passion. He began to enter the darkness of the mind and to know ‘God-forsakenness’.


EXAMPLES OF SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANS

1. Being cast from the centre to the margins

Priests and Religious: ‘Once they were a social and public point of reference, inserted into a local area with a well-defined role. Now the priest or religious can often seem marginal’.

For Christians dedicated to their faith, we are dedicated publically to a cause that many consider increasingly private.

It’s easy for us to feel ‘off-side’.

Feeling irrelevant, misunderstood, even by our children and family members. Going against the tide. Feeling unsupported.

Bringing God’s Word to bear: ‘You have seduced me Yahweh and I have let myself be seduced; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:7-8).

Isolation and fear.


2. Old Age.

Failing strength. Failing energy. A sense that life is passing us by, has passed us by. A sense of failure. A sense of unachieved things eclipses what has been achieved.

Increased dependency for some is humiliating.

What do I do with the time remaining to me in this life?

In what ways can I contribute to the Church now?

How do I need to prepare for eternal life?

Tomorrow’s feast of the Annunciation. Cementing our ‘Amen’ with that of Mary to God. An invitation to greater trust in weakness.


‘We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honour to dishonour, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.’ St Ignatius of Loyola.


We discover in our own precariousness the entry point of Jesus, for ourselves and for others. It is here that transformation happens, as we enter into varied covenant relationships with one another.

‘Blessed are those who mourn’. Letting go. We can’t have or do everything and there is a freedom in that.


3. Sickness

Story of man paralysed by a stroke. His prayer: ‘O angel of God…’ For him ‘To whom God commits me here'… ‘Here’ was his hospital bed, his pulpit. We witness to Christ in different ways throughout our lives. Not one size fits all. Not a question of if we get sick but when. Coping with physical pain.


4. A loss of meaning, a feeling of one’s world coming apart and not having any sense.


5. Bereavement and grief

Losing friends and family members through tragedy, sickness and old age. The scars their loss leave behind.


The Centrality of the Cross

Preaching the Cross is counter-cultural: Today’s emphasis is on glory: ‘Glory of God is man fully alive’ (St Irenaeus). Self-fulfilment, achieving your potential. Nice message but if it is empty of the cross, it is futile.

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man he will draw all people to himself’. Christ crucified as God’s heart broken open in love for the world.

Not just to accept ones cross but to consciously to pick it up freely every day. No strategy of avoidance. On not being an enemy of the cross of Christ.

PRAYERFUL PERSPECTIVES ON SUFFERING:


The Psalms:

The psalms of lament. Shouts of anguish, disorientation and pain. Ps. 22 ‘My God my God why have you forsaken me’. The psalms give rise to our raw anguish but they always carry us on towards praise. They don’t leave us in a bog of despair.

As Christians, we are offered a story in which we discover hope. We are inside the story of Jesus of whom the psalms spoke.

The sacrificial dimension to the priesthood of the baptised: ‘I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me’ (Gal. 2:20). The invitation to ‘offer up’ our sacrifices and trials in union with Chirst

‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Gal. 2:19). Configured to Christ the victim.

Not a case of if we suffer but when and how.

Two key things need to be in place if healthy transformation is to occur: our suffering must be linked to love and to Christ’s cross.


His suffering is ours and ours in his. We are being gently born beyond the tyranny of the present towards the new life of Easter.

"He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely."

St Catherine of Siena, Letter T316


Suffering changes us. It can make us bitter and resentful or it can make us more loving.

To contemplate the cross on Good Friday: BEHOLD THE WOOD OF THE CROSS ON WHICH HUNG THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD

To behold the cross as a book of life: ‘You find it written with a strange beauty when you gaze at Jesus your Saviour stretched out like a sheet of parchment on the cross inscribed with wounds, illustrated with his own loving blood. Where else I ask you, is there a comparable book of love to read from?...So fix your mind’s attention there…turn this book over, open it, read it’.

Blessed Jordan of Saxony.


“This is our logic”, says Saint Bonaventure, pointing to the cross.

For St Francis, it was Jesus fastened on the cross that melted his soul so that ‘whenever Christ’s crucifixion came to his mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs’ (St Bonaventure, The Life of St Francis, 1, 5).


‘Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the cross can man better understand how much he is worth’ (St Anthony of Padua).


Believe that at those times he is hollowing out in your soul capacities to receive him, capacities that are, in a way, as infinite as he himself. Try then to will to be wholly joyful under the hand that crucifies you’.

St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letter 249.


Examples of heroic suffering from the saints:

St Paul, St Peter, St Maximillian Kolbe, St Therese of Lisieux, St Edith Stein, St Joan of Arc, Saints Franceso and Jacinta of Fatima, St Oscar Romero.


If the shadow of the cross falls on our lives then it is only a shadow that is caused by the light on the other side of the cross. Shadows come and go but the light of the resurrection lasts forever.

Suffering is temporal but the joy of the resurrection lats forever. This is our glory and our hope!!

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