By Marta Alves © 2002
Leap of Faith
“Where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more.” Romans 5:20
But… why do we suffer? The exact and correct answer only God knows, but pain can be used as a prayer of offering for ourselves or for others. We have the power of intercessory prayer and we can use it strongly in the middle of our suffering. Pain can purify the soul in ways that joy cannot. Jesus – the Son of God, God Himself experienced suffering, pain and death, therefore pain is not bad.
We proclaim during the season of Lent:
“Christ became obedient for us even to death—Death on the Cross- Therefore God raise Him on high and gave Him a name above all other names. Praise to You Lord Jesus Christ King of Endless Glory.” (Cf. Phil 2:8-9)
We are lead to read in Phil 2:5-11:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
When we try to adopt the attitude of Christ in our suffering, we feel that the Lord is with us as we walk the road of pain. “Where was Jesus when the Jews were walking to the gas chambers in Auschwitz?” a Jew asked a priest. “Walking next to them, crying.” The priest answered.
Jesus cried in Gethsemani for the sins of Israel, for the sins of the world, for my sins, and for your sins.- I believe that when we suffer, Jesus suffers with us. Let us not suffer pain in vain- offer it up as a prayer. The pain may slay the body but not the soul. Jesus is always there with us.
The Lord cries with us when we suffer.
The Lord rejoices with us in our joy.
For our eternal joy He died for us,
So we may live eternally with Him in heaven’s glory.
When we are in the middle of physical pain, it can dominate and control our attention in a way that the only thought in our mind is PAIN!!!! Sometimes we are unable to pray. Let us ask others to pray for us when we cannot.
As the victim of pain, we ask others to pray for us.
As observers, we pray for the victim of pain.
We pray for our loved ones as they walk the road of pain, for the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for the blessing of the Lord to be upon them to bring them consolation. When the suffering friend is too weak or too distraught to pray, we may pray for God to sustain and guide him.
Jesus is the Suffering Servant, who endured the agony of Gethsemani, but freely accepted to drink the cup which the Father offered him (See Lk. 22:39-44). Let us pray: “Lord, not my will but Your will be done.”
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
The dying to self and a total acceptance of God’s will enable us to survive the bitterness and resentment that a painful illness may bring. Let us keep in mind that this life is passing, we are on our road to heaven.
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains
alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit"
When we are able to die to self and say to God, “Thy will be done, not mine.” We free our soul of the spiritual and emotional pain that sickness can bring upon it.
Let us go to the Lord in Prayer. Let us take time and go to daily mass. Let us receive His most Holy Body in the Eucharist. Let us go and receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick for grace and strength. Let us go to the sacrament of penance. Let us cry to Him for help, for healing, for comfort. Let us bring all our tears to Him, trusting that He will wipe them away.
When we turn too slowly to Him for help, we suffer longer. The consolation to our sorrow and pain resides in Him and Him alone. He knows pain- He suffered for us. He knows sorrow- He carried the cross for us, and cried for us at Gethsemani. He is the One who sends comfort to all who faithfully call upon Him. He is the cure to all our pain. He suffered and died for us: The most important of all things to remember is that He is risen! He conquered pain! HE CONQUERED DEATH!
Let us not fear what the future might bring. Remember Ps 27:1:
The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?
“W hy do we suffer?” The exact and correct answer only God knows. But pain can be used as a prayer of offering for ourselves and for others. We can say, for example: “Lord, I offer you my pain as an offering for the salvation of my loved one.” We have the power of intercessory prayer and we can use it strongly in the middle of our suffering. Some of us may suffer purgatory on this earth. Let us offer the pain for our own redemption. Pain can purify the soul in ways that joy cannot.
When we are in extreme pain sometimes we cannot pray, let us ask others to pray for us. Let us pray for healing and most of all for God's will to be done in the lives of those who we know are suffering today.
“Why do we suffer?” I do not have an answer, but Mother Theresa is quoted 3 beautifully in an article in the Houston Chronicle, April 6. 1998 - “The Kiss of Jesus”:
“Pain sorrow and suffering is but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to him that He can kiss you. May God give you all the courage to accept your cross with the resignation and love union with the passion of Jesus.”3
There are no human words that can offer consolation in the midst of human pain, but we believe that suffering and pain are not in vain when we offer it to the Lord in prayer. We believe what Saint Paul says in the letter to the Romans:
"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 q
1. Excerpts from the Encyclical Letter of John Paul II, Feb. 11, 1984- “Salvific Doloris”- on Christian Meaning of Human Suffering
“Human suffering evokes compassion; it also evokes respect, and in its own way it intimidates.” 1
“Insofar as the words "suffering" and "pain", can, up to a certain degree, be used as synonyms, physical suffering is present when "the body is hurting" in some way, whereas moral suffering is "pain of the soul". In fact, it is a question of pain of a spiritual nature, and not only of the "psychological" dimension of pain which accompanies both moral and physical suffering The vastness and the many forms of moral suffering are certainly no less in number than the forms of physical suffering. But at the same time, moral suffering seems as it were less identified and less reachable by therapy.” 1
“Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures.”
“Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations.” 1
2. a Kempis, Thomas, The Imitation of Christ
3. “The Kiss of Jesus,” Houston Chronicle, Monday, April 6, 1998 pp. 5A
What About Suffering?
On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering
No Pain is without Significance
I Thought I Had It All
A Burning Hut
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