TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Pain and suffering beseech us to find a diagnosis and prognosis for our own sanity and wellbeing. Under such circumstances, the body craves healing, wellness and wholeness. Healing is never instantaneous. It is methodical in its own right. We must endure it until the end. Never overdose yourself. There is never an expedient cure. Overindulgence of any kind will only worsen the human condition or may accelerate death. Follow the advice of those who went before us. Be patient in your affliction (Rom.12:12; Heb.12:13). It is God’s way of disciplining us and guiding us towards the path of wisdom and perfection.
Discipline in every aspect of human life is mandatory for good health, and perfection. God intended us to have life in abundance (Jn.10:10) and to be perfect (Mat.t.5:48) and to reflect his glory. However, he never promised us there would be no suffering (Mk.10:30). In addition, the four Song of the suffering servant of God (Is. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-7; 52:13-53:12) recap that all of us who exist Christ (Acts 17:28) are heirs with him in his sufferings.
Redemptive Suffering is the school of divine love and perfection of the soul. Just as the human body craves for healing form physical pain and disorder, so does the soul under the weight of guilt, sin, and sorrow hankers for cleansing and deliverance. Through discipline and a regimen of drugs, the body recovers from its pains and suffering. The soul requires the same level of discipline and continuous dosage of divine virtues, values and valour if it is to survive its spiritual malaise and retain the true image and likeness of God.
Many saints discovered Christ on their sickbed. Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, St. Theresa, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic Savio – just to name a few – all discovered Christ through redemptive suffering. God inflicted their flesh only to speak directly to their soul. I think God is doing the same with me. My sufferings are tools of God’s redeeming love and mercy. In the interim, he gave me some previews of what exists on the other side. It is a glory worth living pursuing.
The author of Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 defines redemptive suffering as acts of divine discipline guiding the beloved children of God in a steady path towards holiness and perfection. In this regard, the Beatitudes is a curriculum in faith and redemptive suffering. It offers rewards of those persevere to the end. Thus, faith does not permit us to grow despondent in the face of correction, suffering and pain for the sake of our perfection in Christ. Remember! God made his Son perfect through suffering (Heb.2:10). All the suffering of the Beatitudes guides us to the triumph of the end times. This is exactly what Isaiah 66:18-21 is alluding to: the children of Israel endured suffering and hardship in the wilderness and in exile but in the end, as a new nation they celebrated the glory of God. Human suffering is a form of spiritual discipline; we are never alone in our struggles. God is always fighting alongside us.
This too is the gist of Luke 13:22-30. Through sustained redemptive suffering, discipline, and desire for holiness and perfection, we will inherit the kingdom of God. However, our increasingly permissive world is intolerant of Christian discipline. However, today the Liturgy of the Word challenges us to reconsider our future in the kingdom of heaven. It reminds us, Christian discipline is all about cultivating the divine virtues, and imitating the gallantry of Christ in the midst of suffering that in the end, we may sing of the glories of God in union with Christ and the saints in the kingdom.
Lord, I willingly embrace whichever cross you send my way. I know you will carry it with me to the end.