Thursday, January 29, 2015

In the Sufferings

You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.  Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense.  You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.  Hebrews 10:34-36

“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Mark 4:26-27

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.  (Hebrews 10:16)

Despite our suffering – be it voluntarily accepted or involuntarily imposed – we can still confidently approach the Lord to ask for His grace and intervention in our lives.  St. Paul acknowledges that we need endurance to do the will of God because it will entail suffering.  This is hardly the “stuff” used for recruiting posters in a day when messages abound about how things will make our life easier.

There is a famous story about St. Theresa of Avila which comes to mind whenever I see readings that promise suffering.  One day – so the story goes -- Theresa had trouble crossing a stream; the donkey she was with was being a jackass and would not cooperate. Theresa got soaked with mud and who knows what else and instead of getting mad at a poor defenseless animal, she got mad at God. Theresa screamed, yelling to God: "Well, if this is the way you treat your friends it is no wonder you don't have any!"

She knew that suffering would yield the fruit of a closer relationship with God.  She knew that God doesn't promise us a rose garden.  Life with the Lord will not be easy.  However, He promises that it will be worth all the suffering.  Like the sower in the Good News according to St. Mark, the sower plants and the plants grow but “he knows not how.” 

We will never know why we suffer and how it will bring us closer to God.  However, Pope Francis had to deal with the question of suffering when he faced a question from a young girl on his recent trip to the Philippines.

According to a recent story in the National Catholic Reporter
Tearfully recounting a young life as yet spent forced to forage for food from garbage and to sleep outside on cardboard mats, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar had a simple but profound question for Pope Francis.
"Why did God let this happen to us?" the young Filipino asked, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.

The Pope put aside his prepared text and addressed the root of her question.  "Certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears," Francis said.

Addressing the thousands of youth in the crowd, he continued: "I invite each one of you to ask yourselves: 'Have I learned how to weep, how to cry when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave?'"

Have I learned to weep, how to cry, when I see a hungry child?  Have I joined in their suffering?


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