Sunday, May 31, 2009

Uniting Our Suffering with That of Christ

Our priest told a very moving story at Mass this weekend - it was a first-hand account told at a retreat he attended many years ago, by a priest from Washington D.C. This priest had a brother that was not active in the faith, and the priest had said many prayers on his brother's behalf.

There was a young boy in his parish that was dying of cancer, and when his hour was near, the priest was called in. The priest assured the boy of his prayers, and made a request of the lad. He asked the boy to pray for his brother, knowing that when we unite our sufferings with those of Christ, they are made perfect, because Christ is perfect.

Sadly, the boy slipped into a coma that evening and died. What happened the next morning was not known to the priest for about a week, but it surely shows the work of the Holy Spirit. His brother was awakend at about 6 o'clock in the morning, just several hours after the boy's death. He managed to hold off until about 7 AM, at which time he knocked on the door of the nearest rectory where he was welcomed by a sleepy-eyed priest. He made a good confession and rejoined the church.

Better yet, when our priest returned to his parish after this retreat and told this story, after Mass he was approached in the sacristy by a man. He thought Father must have told that story just for him as the circumstances were quite similar. He hadn't been very faithful up to that point, but afterwards, he and his family rejoined the church as well.
Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. Oh God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful, Grant, that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
This link has a number of Scripture references to suffering.
Fr. Mike Manning says:
St. Paul gives us an insight into this when we wrote in his letter to the Colossians, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church." Colossians 1.24 That means that Christ is relying on us to be part of his suffering and cross. He values our suffering. Read the whole thing here.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraphs 2014 and 2015:
Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. (68) Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows. (69)

68 - Cf. 2 Tim 4
69 - St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8:PG 44, 941C.
Also see paragraphs 774, 407, 2725, and 1438
Brian Pizzalato says "So, why do people suffer? Suffering can be a result of sin. Of this there is no doubt. Suffering can also serve as a way of testing and purification." Read more of his good stuff here.
Agape Bible Study has an article on How Should The Christian Respond to Personal Suffering? The verse at the top of the article is 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I have more than my share of weaknesses, for sure.
While I was visiting the mission in Mexico, I saw a lot of suffering. I saw people living in conditions that were a hundred times worse than the garage where I parked my car - and smaller, to boot. I saw them sharing a piece of Christ's suffering on a daily basis. I learned a great deal about our call to holiness.
Come, Holy Spirit!

Image found at Web Gallery of Art.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Wow, great post! That story gave me goose bumps, amazing! I look forward to checking out some of those links on suffering tomorrow, when my eyelids will hopefully stay open better.