Lent makes us pause, gives us a chance to think of Our Lord’s suffering….a suffering we, as mere mortals, have a hard time wrapping our heads around.
I don’t pretend to understand the problem of human suffering. At times, it seems pointless, endless and utterly self-defeating…at times.
Those are the moments we are tempted to look up and say, “Ummmm….Dear Lord, are you SURE You know what You are doing here???”
But, good Catholics that we try to be, we resist the temptation to ask God what He is about, or why He does what He does….at least we try not to do it in accusing tones.
I believe God understands because, after all:
“Evil is a mystery, a scandal and it will always be so. It is necessary to do what one can to eliminate it, to relieve suffering, but it always remains present in our personal lives, as well as in the world.”
We are reassured that:
“Its place in the economy of redemption reveals the wisdom of God, which is not the wisdom of man; it always retains something incomprehensible. …. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8–9).” – Fr. Jacques Philippe
I have had two very strong examples in my life of suffering that was well borne.
I knew a couple…..a vibrant, lovely, cheerful young couple. They were always ready to lend a helping hand and they were loved by many.
They owned a business where they both worked hard. It was a business that brought people in from near and far….not only for their wares but, also, and maybe even most of all, for their magnetic and caring personalities.
One day, the husband had an accident that was to cause him pain and grief for the rest of his life. He had to sell his business and seek other employment. He had surgery after surgery to relieve the pain. Nothing seemed to work except stronger and stronger medications.
It got to the point where he could work no more and his sweet and lovely wife had to take a job. This particular man bore his pain and his unaccustomed weakness bravely. He hardly complained, he still held his hand out to those in need, and he was a pleasure to be around, joking and laughing, as always. You almost forgot what kind of anguish he bore within himself.
He handled his pain well but there was a problem…….He had. no. faith. He and his wife left the Church many years before the accident.
I would often think of this dear man with sadness. He had such a wealth of power at his fingertips! The people he could have influenced, the pain he could have relieved, the sufferings of others that he could have borne…..if he had only known to offer up his pain to Our Lord….Pain that is such a valuable treasure! More riches than the whole world did he have!! And yet the years went by and his suffering was lost…..lost….spiraling down into the abyss of nothingness.
Let me tell you about another man.
This gentleman’s name was Jim. Though Jim was a young man, the Legion of Mary first met him in a retirement home. He was a quadriplegic…..he couldn’t move any of his limbs.
When you walked into Jim’s room it was as if you were walking into a tomb. It was quiet….still…..dimly-lit. I remember the first time going to see him, I was taken aback at the somberness of it all.
But once you got on the side of Jim’s bed where he could see you, you got quite another picture! Jim was so much alive despite his paralyzed body. His eyes danced and his lips curved into a smile!
You see, Jim had been a Harley Davidson guy in his mobile years. His life was spent seeking pleasures and empty diversions. It was a life of unhappy dissipation.
One day Jim had an accident. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Enter the Legion of Mary. Through many visits, Jim learned about the Catholic Faith and converted. He also learned about the value of suffering.
He learned that he had such a store of wealth that he could distribute among others who were hurting. He could offer it for his wife, who had left him after the accident. He could offer it for his two children, knowing that this would be his only influence and legacy he would leave them….a great legacy, indeed, though they may not know it in this life.
Jim became a dynamo of love. He was genuinely concerned for anyone who had hurts, who needed prayers. Many of us came to him with prayer requests, knowing that his prayers must be powerful with God! His wall was dotted with many photos of families that wanted him to pray for them…..and which he steadfastly did each day.
He told my friend, Mary Ann, the woman who was instrumental in converting Jim and who was his Godmother, that he was happier now than he had ever been in his former “walking” life. Imagine that! He was a living testimony of the Miracle of Faith!
Here is a picture of Jim with his Godparents, Mike and MaryAnn and their family. (The top girl on the left became my dear daughter-in-law.) Father Lontiev is posing with them.
Jim died about 4 years ago now. He had such a hard life….and yet he was a man of incredible faith and influenced many lives. One day, we will see the influence of this one man’s suffering on the world around him. It will be great, I have no doubt.
Each day, we too, have sufferings, inconveniences, disappointments and hurts. These are great opportunities and valuable prayers. We have the opportunity to hand these golden nuggets to Our Lord.
As women, wives and mothers we care so very much for our loved ones. We hurt when they hurt. Oftentimes we feel helpless.
We don’t need to feel helpless. Let’s take each nugget of suffering and, instead of kicking against the goad, give them to Our Lady, who, in turn, can polish them up, rid these nuggets of the dirt and grime of our self-love, and lay them at the feet of Our Lord as only His Mother can do.
One day, we will see the influence of our own suffering well-borne on our little worlds: Our son was steered back to the faith, our sister was given insight into her marital troubles, our uncle was now willing to take his meds for his mental illness, Grandma found help for her arthritis, Susie’s obstinacy is being resolved, etc. etc. All because YOU offered your sufferings each day to Our Lord in your Morning Offering and all through the day.
From Father Raoul Plus, S.J.: “Of the three apostolates prayer, action, and suffering, the most efficacious is suffering.
…..Our duty is evident. The work of redemption is binding upon both the Master and the disciples. The manner of redemption chosen by the Master must be adopted by the disciple. To be a Christian is to be not only one redeemed but also a redeemer, not only one saved but a savior. What nonsense, then to refuse sacrifice!”
And, as Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote “Pain, agony, disappointments, injustices-all these can be poured into a heavenly treasury from which the anemic, sinful, confused, ignorant souls may draw unto the healing of their wings.”
Remember that in God’s eyes, none of these sufferings are useless….they are nuggets….golden nuggets.